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Barrow Bay 

After etchings by John Byrne 


The Story of Lake 
Huron's Great Peninsula 


Former President, University of Western Ontario 





The Story of Lake 
Huron's Great Peninsula 


Former President, University of Western Ontario 










Copyright, Canada, 1952, by the University 
of Toronto Press and printed in Canada 

First printing, October 1952 

Reprinted, November 1952 

Reprinted, December 1952 

Reprinted, January 1953 

Reprinted., July 1957 

Revised and enlarged edition, 1962 

Reprinted 1962 in the United States of America 

To the Men and Women of The Bruce 

who accepted the challenges 

of a hard land and moody waters 

with brave hearts and smiling faces 



1HIS book would never have been written but for the 
generous help accorded me by many friends. Of all the 

_ locuments that I have found to be of real service The 
History of Bruce County, published by the late Mr, Norman 
Robertson of Walkerton in 1906, stands indisputably in the first 
place. Most of the articles on the Bruce Peninsula that have 
appeared since then have been based upon passages in that book; 
few indeed have been derived from other records or from in- 
dependent observations. 

To the Queens Quarterly and to Inland Seas (the bulletin of 
the Great Lakes Historical Society) I am grateful for permission 
to include as chapters in this book papers of mine that originally 
were printed in these journals. In retelling stories of nearly a 
century of shipwrecks I am under obligation to Saturday Night of 
Toronto and to the Daily Sun-Times of Owen Sound, in whose 
columns accounts of some of the wrecks have appeared at sundry 
times during -the last fifty years. To the Canadian Lumberman and 
to Walter M. Newman of Wiarton I am indebted for many of the 
details recorded in the chapter, "And the Trees Trooped Out." 

Much of the material that is published here for the first time 
has been drawn out of the memories of several of the Peninsula's 
oldest inhabitants; worthy of special mention are: William Gil- 
christ (who died in Owen Sound at the age of ninety-two on 
February 28 of this year); Charles Williams (who died at the 
age of eighty in Lion's Head on January 15); Robert Lymbtimer, 
of Owen Sound, eighty-nine; Canon R. W. James, long Sky Pilot 
of Lion's Head, who is now enjoying active retirement in Port 
Burwell, Ontario. To various sources of information already in 
print I have been guided by Howard Fleming of Owen Sound; 
J. Stuart Fleming of Niagara Falls, New York, and Owen Sound; 
Roy F. Fleming of Ottawa; James Baillie Jr. of the Royal Ontario 
Museum of Zoology, Toronto; Norman Fee of the Public Archives 


viii Acknowledgments 

of Canada, Ottawa; Dr. Percy J. Robinson, Toronto; Dr. Fred 
Landon, London, author of Lake Huron-, the staff of the Canadian 
Hydrographic Service, Ottawa. It was Miss Edith L. Marsh of 
Clarksburg, Grey County, who generously placed at my disposal 
the late Peter Trout's manuscript, "What I Know of John Muir." 
Shortly before his lamented death, my old friend, Arthur Stringer, 
Canadian poet and novelist, gave permission to quote from one 
of his new poems the lines that fittingly head the chapter, "Lilacs 
and Log Cabins." 

Among my former colleagues of the University of Western 
Ontario who have unstintingly assisted me in numerous ways are: 
Professors W. F. Tamblyn, G. EL Reavely, Helen Battle, N. C. 
Hart; Dr. J, J. Talman, and Miss Lillian Benson of the Library. 
Through their skilful, interpretative sketches Clare Bice and 
Vincent Elliott, both former students of mine and among my 
companions on many a ramble in the Peninsula, have given this 
book an atmosphere quite beyond my unaided power to create. 
Another former student, Mr. Archie Stevens of London, has 
rendered valuable service in making the publication of the book 
known to the reading public. In writing the text I have found 
my daughter, Katharine Sherwood Fox, a consistently exacting 
and stimulating critic and in the reading of proof vision itself. 
My friend Mr. Donald Campbell of Goderich has graciously 
given me experienced assistance in ways too various to specify. 
From the author's point of view his relations with the University 
of Toronto Press have been of the happiest and in every respect 
most helpful. No small measure of such qualities as The Bruce 
Beckons may possess is to be credited to the several representa- 
tives of the Press with whom I have conferred, notably the Editor, 
Professor George Brown, and Miss Eleanor Harman, and their 
associates, Misses Francess Halpenny and M. Jean Houston. 

London, Ontario 
August 1,1952 



I have taken the opportunity provided by this new printing to 
add a sketch of Tobermory, Scotland, by Clare Bice, as a com- 
panion to that of "Little Tub." I have included also, as an 
appendix, additional material on the lumbering industry in The 
Bruce, which rounds out the story of chapter 16, "And the Trees 
Trooped Out." 



Native sons and residents of Bruce County, the Bruce Peninsula 
and neighbouring places, Councils and Service Clubs of the 
district, whose gracious sponsorship of this volume is gratefully 
welcomed by the publishers and the author 


Former Ambassador of Canada to the United States 


Former Minister of Trade and Commerce 

J. W. RANSBUBY Tobermory 

Warden of the County of Bruce 


ALLAN McLAY Stokes Bay 

MR. AND MRS. A. B. SAMELLS Sauble Forest 

MR. AND MRS. T. A. SINE Hepworth 

WILLIAM H. WOOD Lion's Head 

FRED BRUIN Lions Head 

ROY GREIG Lion's Head 


]. STUART FLEMING Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Owen Sound 


CUYLER HAUCH, M.D. Owen Sound 

E. E. PATERSON Wiarton 

ROY F. FLEMING Ottawa and Fishing Islands 

CHESTER McDiARMro Port Elgin 



CECIL BOWMAN Southampton 


ROTABY CLUB Hepworth-Shallow Lake 

ROTARY CLUB Southampton 

ROTARY CLUB Tara-Allenford 



An Introduction xo 


1. The Road to Tobermory 8 

2. A Garden Northward 2Z 

3. An Unknown Land 27 


4. Perils of a Freshwater Sea 41 

5. The Eighties Take Their Toll 49 

6. West Side, East Side 61 

7. Folklore of the Fishing Islands 70 


8. The Tides o' Bruce 79 

9. In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 94 

10. The Great Draughts of Fishes 108 

11. The Serpent in the Garden 121 


12. John Muir Was Here 135 

13. The Trail of the Alaska Orchid 144 

14. "The Herb Called Hart's Tongue 99 152 

15. Orchid and Flowerpot 160 


xii Contents 


16. And the Trees Trooped Out 171 

17. The Mill at Ghost Lake 181 

18. The Mill at Stokes Bay 192 


19. Piloting on the New Frontier 203 

20. Lilacs and Log Cabins 220 


When Sir John A. Put His Foot Dotvn 227 



Barrow Bay frontispiece 

Map of the Bruce Peninsula xvi 

"Little Tub" 2 

Tobermory, Scotland 2 

Small outline map of The Bruce 5 

The glacier's record of its path (Stokes Bay) 25 

Early maps of the Bruce Peninsula 

Boisseau, 1643 (after Champlain, 16S2) SO 

Sanson, Paris, 1656 31 

Du Creux, Paris, 1660 SI 

Dottier de Casson and Galin6e, Paris, 1670 82 

Father Hennepin, 1683 32 

de Maurepas, Quebec, 1699 32 

Hermann Moll, 1709-20 32 

Mortier, Amsterdam, c. 1710 32 

Mitchell, 1755 33 

tfAnville, Paris, 1755 33 

Bellin, Paris, 1755 33 

Gother Mann, Quebec, 1788 33 

Captain W. F. Owen, 1815 35 

Wreck of the Severn 40 

Massasauga and chipmunk 78 

The lagoon at Tamarac Island, before a seiche 90 

The lagoon at Tamarac Island, after a seiche 91 

An army of pigeons invades the Peninsula 97 

"The Fort" Main Station Island 113 

The "Gorgon" 131 


xw Illustrations 

The Calypso Orchid 134 

The Alaska Orchid 147 

The Hart's Tongue Fern 153 

The Prairie White Fringed Orchid 161 

The Monument or "Devil's -Pulpit" 164 

Larger -flowerpot, Flowerpot Island 165 

Smaller flowerpot, Flowerpot Island 165 

"Camboose" Camp, No. 1, Shouldice Lake 170 

The Mill, Georgian Bay shore, below Ghost Lake 190 

The Mill, Tamarac Island, Stokes Bay 196 

Old log house with guardian lilacs 202 

The Sky Pilot on his rounds 208 

St. Margaret's Church, Cape Chin 218 


AT his first sight of the Bruce Peninsula the visitor cannot 
but be aware of a land astonishingly unlike any he has 
seen before. The kind of shock he gets pleasant or the 
contrary depends upon his own particular way of looking upon 
the world of physical things. The tidy soul who feels no thrill 
except in cosy landscapes or in fitting every act of life into the 
pigeonhole marked for it by a community long set in the ways of 
propriety, will not be apt to warm to The Bruce. But he will 
never forget what he saw there. If, on the other hand, the visitor 
delights in rough wild tracts of land and water and is eager to 
wander long among uncouth scenes, he is ready to fall in love 
with The Bruce at once. And in this propensity he belongs to the 
great majority. Happily, it seems to be true that most men, de- 
spite the stifling effects of modern life, still keep alive in their 
souls the race's rare power to perceive in any wilderness however 
barren, unfriendly, and unkempt witcheries 'that beckon to quest 
and adventure. In qualifications of that order The Bruce is indeed 
extraordinarily rich. 

But you do not have to see the Peninsula itself to find cause 
for marvelling about it. Only look intently at its outline on the 
map of mid-North America. In regard to all Lake Huron it is a 
sword that has cleaved a body clean in twain: instead of one lake 
there are two. From another point of view it is a spear piercing 
the very heart of the Great Lakes; yes, the heart, for the point of 
the blade lies almost halfway between the east end of Lake 
Ontario and the west end of Superior, very close indeed to the 
centre of the lake system's channels of traffic and travel. Again, 
in the eyes of sailors this same land mass may be just a formidable 
obstacle dropped most inconveniently across routes which would 
otherwise be short and easy. Whatever figure of speech you 
employ, the obstacle forces itself upon your attention. 
All the peoples who have lived in the Great Lakes region have, 

'*/ AiCtix Cor nation 

An Introduction xvii 

with dread, felt the great promontory to be a factor in their lives. 
Its size, shape, and situation have made it international. It is 
enough just now to note briefly why: it is international because 
it puts checks and limits upon the movements qf whole peoples. 
For centuries it was effective among the numerous Indian nations, 
then, successively, between Indians and French and between 
French and English. Later, when England-in~America split into 
two national units the colossal barrier of The Bruce made the 
Georgian Bay a closed British sea. Even today its dual influence 
endures. Politically a part of an Ontario county, the Peninsula is 
a giant causeway on which rests the last reach of a highway for 
the wheeled traffic of two nations. For many citizens of the 
United States it affords the best land route to Manitoulin Island, 
the North Shore of Lake Huron, and the hinterland that fans out 
beyond. For this service it is Nature we must thank. By leaving 
the great yawning mouth of Saginaw Bay to break the Michigan 
shoreline of Lake Huron, she funnels a host of northbound 
travellers into a direct thoroughfare on the Canadian side of the 

In still another realm Nature has made The Bruce a land of 
more than one nation. Most appropriately has the tract been 
called "the great North American rendezvous of plants/' Some 
mysterious complex of influences has drawn plants hither from 
all points of the compass. One marvellous plant alone, the Hart's 
Tongue fern, has, by a chain of green fronds, linked the Peninsula 
with every continent except South America and Australia. Of 
this bond and others like it the botanists of the world have long 
known. Through its plants The Bruce is a famous place. 

Of such a land one who has long been held captive by its 
wonders can say many things, even many more than the weird 
medley the Walrus recited to Alice. Brought together, they 
might be called a history. But that thought compels me to make 
my position clear. The text that follows is not a history of the 
Brace Peninsula; that is altogether too formal, too schoolish a 
title. I crave a strange privilege: I want to be allowed to call the 
book just a holidaya, holiday between coversbecause, for the 
most part, I have put into it just what I liked. And that is pre- 
cisely what my readers themselves do with those spells of freedom 
which the world calls holidays. Of course, as I know with keen 
regret, lack of time and space has made it necessary to leave out 
many things of great interest and importance. If the reader really 

xviii -An Introduction 

insists upon having before him a detailed, diary-like history of 
our peninsula I direct him to volumes that merit the name, or 
bid him go a-digging for dates and events in the ancient dust of 
township offices and county registries. And if he seeks a hand- 
book to guide him by day to every vista worth seeing and, at 
the setting of the sun, to hostelries where he may rest from the 
fatigue of his wayfarings, I shall disappoint him even more. 

One more word must be said. After all, the chief concern of 
this holiday of mine is not the things of The Bruce; rather is it 
the people who have lived, who still live, among these things. 
Always this question stands high above all else in my thoughts: 
How have these people "reacted" to the divers physical aspects 
of the Bruce Peninsula, the kindly and lovely things, the harsli 
and unfriendly things, among which they have chosen to live 
their lives? Long, intimate knowledge of them enables me to 
give a cheerful answer. The solid strength of character I know 
them as a group to possess they have acquired in the only way 
men can acquire that quality. Over the years they have from day 
to day, without amazement or dismay, faced each challenge of 
a hard land just as it came, and, after soberly taking its measure, 
have accepted it cheerfully and with courage. 


"Little Tub 

Tobermory, Scotland 

After a mural in the Cunard Company's Ivernia 

Chapter 1 



<O ramble with most profit in The Bruce we must be 
certain of our bearings before leaving the beaten paths. 

So let us away, on the winged wheels of fancy, for a quick 

survey of this remarkable unit of land. On its small scale our 
journey will not be unlike a flight from Land's End to John o' 
Groats. There is one difference, as we shall see more clearly 
presently: here, we have two Land's Ends from which to start 
One thing both journeys have in common: their destinations are 
Scottish, for about three-quarters of a century ago the Tobermory 
we seek was given its name by a lonely, homesick Scot 

According to d'Anville's map of 1755 the Peninsula had a name 
of its own. In carefully formed letters it stands out clearly before 
the eye: OUENDIAGUI. This is how a Frenchman would indi- 
cate its pronunciation; a person of English speech would probably 
write it WENDIAGHY. The word must be very ancient and 
doubtless was the one used by Indians of the Huron family of 
nations in speaking to Champlain about the rocky foreland that 
reminded him of his familiar Brittany. In the opinion of a 
Canadian scholar who has long made a close study of the Huron 
language the name is highly suitable: he takes it to mean "island 
or peninsula cut off." If that is so, the designation would aptly 
fit either the Peninsula or the ancient portage route from the 
present Wiarton by way of Boat Lake to Lake Huron. Assuredly, 
so important a "carry" is a "cut off' par excellence. At this point 
it is useful to recall that the pure Latin word peninsula and its 
French counterpart, presquile, both mean "near-island." But how- 
ever appropriate Ouendiagui was as a name it did not stick, 
doubtless because there were no longer enough Hurons left in 
the region to keep it in circulation. 

The Indian name of the Peninsula at the time the white man 
began taking a serious interest in its soil and other resources 
stems from a different linguistic stock, the Algonquin. When 

4 The Bruce Beckons 

Southampton was settled in 1848, the Peninsula was still an 
Ojibway hunting ground and bore its inhabitants' tribal name, 
"Saugink" or "Sauking," as it was first spelled in print, and now 
"Saugeen." Thanks to a lingering shred of sentiment this highly 
suitable name has not been wholly lost among the labels that 
clutter today's map. Some old-timers still speak of the "Saugeen 
Peninsula," and the greater part of Southampton lies in the Town- 
ship of Saugeen. That, too, is the name of the comely river which, 
within the very town limits, pours into the great lake the clear 
spring waters of the Blue Mountains of Grey County. It is also 
the name of an area of submarginal sand and wildwood which, 
in the legal guise of generosity, the Crown has "reserved" for the 
Saugeen Indian "to have and to hold" forever as his homeland. 


Nature endowed the Bruce Peninsula with two Land's Ends- 
Owen Sound at the southeastern corner, Southampton at the 
southwestern. To the most casual eye the topographical cast of 
the country about each end is quite different In simple general 
terms the terrain of the eastern end is elevated and creased with 
conspicuous Mils and valleys, whereas that of the opposite end is 
relatively low and spread out into plains. This remark is of much 
more than local application: the type of terrain seen at Owen 
Sound prevails along the whole eastern flank of the Peninsula; 
similarly, the type observed at Southampton sets the pattern for 
the western flank to the very tip of Cape Kurd. Any traveller 
who seeks a true vision of the Peninsula as a unit of land will do 
best to start his journey at both Land's Ends; he will thus equip 
himself with a ready explanation of the varying contours of the 
territory through which he passes. 

The problem of being in two places at once does not exist on 
such a trip as ours. So we shall set out from Owen Sound, our 
eastern Land's End, to span the few miles of paved highway to 
the Road to Tobermory; there we shall await our own return from 
a second start at our western Land's End, Southampton. 

From Owen Sound 

Among the cities of the central Great Lakes Owen Sound can 
boast of a site that is uniquely fascinating in its setting. It lies 
in a long, deep-sunk notch which, in the shape of a spearhead, 
jabs southward far into the thick mass of the Niagara Escarpment. 
This notch is the last reach of the lovely Sydenham River. Indeed, 

The Road to Tobermory 5 

the notch was created partly by the stream itself in its efforts to 
attain the Georgian Bay and partly by the battering and grinding 
of successive glaciers. In general the valley floor is comparatively 
flat and lies but a few feet above the waters of the Sound outside, 
that is, normally, 581 feet above sea level. As we travel, that figure 
must be kept in mind. 

In striking contrast to the level of the valley are the towering 
walls of limestone that form the two sides of the spearhead. As 

we leave the lower town of Owen Sound on our way west we 
have no choice but to scale one of these formidable walls. But 
the roadmakers long ago solved the problem. By a long, steep, 
but even gradient and a series of loops the highway lifts us to 
the upper level of an attractive suburb. What is of chief concern 
here is not the scene, however, but the elevation. Not far south 
of this point, states the official chart of the region, the land lies 
850 feet above sea level. To touch the waters of Lake Huron 
proper, then, we must drop down 270 feet. 

Here in a relatively small area we can see the nature of the 
land contours as far north as Cabot's Head and even beyond. 
The summit of the west bluff of that headland is only 40 feet 
higher than the highland overlooking Owen Sound. A moment of 
observation is enough to fix a major fact of the Bruce in our 
minds: like a gigantic stone slab the entire mass of the Peninsula 
is tilted towards the west. The conspicuous surface-wrinkles of 

Q The Bruce Beckons 

hills and valleys may conceal the slant from the traveller, whether 
eastbound or westbound, but it is there all the same. The height 
of land is plainly visible only a furlong or two west of the cliffs 
that form the Peninsula's eastern wall. Hence nearly all The 
Bruce's watercourses flow into Lake Huron. The few that seek 
the Georgian Bay are of meagre volume, short, rapid, and noisy. 
So, then, as we move west from the elevated outskirts of Owen 
Sound we are going down hill. At the hamlet of Jackson we have 
already descended 60 feet and when we halt at the foot of the 
main road leading to our John o Groats we shall have descended 
several more. 

From Southampton 

Resorting to the magic of fancy, we start now at our western 
Land's End. As we wheel off the town bridge to the north side 
of the Saugeen River at Southampton we find ourselves on a 
solid provincial thoroughfare that almost coincides with the east- 
west road allowance surveyed by Rankin in 1846 to link the 
Georgian Bay with Lake Huron. That line, we must observe, is 
virtually the base of the Peninsula. The highway No. 21-leads 
us into the Saugeen Reserve and carries us through it for two or 
three miles. The unpleasant sight of slovenly tillage on either 
hand raises the question, Where shall one lay the blame for this 
sorry condition? Upon the unkind soil? Upon the folk for whom it 
was reserved in the name of kindness? Or is it dangerous thinking 
even to play with the idea? upon the mock philanthropy of the 

At our left a couple of roads cut north through the Reserve into 
an enticing tangle of woodland and promise to land us on the 
sands of the famous Sauble Beach. We ignore the temptation 
now in order to approach -the place more profitably later by 
another route. So we carry on past the cluster of habitations em- 
bellished with the romantic name of Elsinore and thence, a 
couple of miles farther on, over the bridge spanning the Sauble 
River. For a quarter of a mile the highway swings in graceful 
curves that conform to the windings of the green-fringed stream 
that flows close to the very edge of the pavement. So smooth is 
our course that we are quite unaware we are going up hill; a few 
rods away from the river flats and within the limits of the village 
of Allenford, we are 750 feet above the sea, and before we end 
this present brief jaunt will have added a few feet to that figure. 

The Road to Tobermory 7 

As settlements go in these parts Allenford is among the oldest, 
and in its centmy of random growth it has gathered round it a 
certain rural aura that is akin to charm. What a pity, though, that 
our modem craze for standardization has stripped it of the finest 
adornment of its antiquity its Indian name. At the shallows of 
the river recurring floods used to heap up into huge jams the 
broken branches and uprooted trunks carried downstream from 
the forests up-country. Over these uncouth bridges wayfaring 
Indians passed dryshod. So the place was called Driftwood Cross- 
ing. Even if retained only in translation the name would have 
given the community distinction. 

Two miles east of Allenford we rejoin ourselves at our appointed 
rendezvous at the foot of the Road to Tobermory. Here a three- 
armed signpost carries the terse message: 14 miles from Southamp- 
ton; 9 from Owen Sound; and, of major concern to us, 65 from 
Tobermory via Provincial Highway No. 6. 


No. 6, one should realize at the outset, is much more than a 
highway: it is a spinal column, the traffic backbone of the whole 
Peninsula. Along it flow, now up, now down, the vital impulses 
upon which all settled parts of this body of land depend for their 
normal activities and even for their very existence. True, this 
backbone is afflicted with a number of curvatures rather than 
with the easy curves one would expect, but it is nevertheless a 
backbone. The sideroads project from it on either hand and at 
various anglesright, acute, obtuse. What are these but ribs, 
true and false, or, as the anatomist would have us say, "sternal 
and floating." It is along these "rib-roads" that we shall find most 
of the scenes in which later on we shall linger. 

Five minutes* drive brings us to Parkhead Junction and the 
tracks of the Canadian National Railway which here begin to 
descend eastward to Owen Sound. The cluster of homes not far 
to our left is of historical importance; near here in 1856 William 
Simpson became the first settler on the peninsular lands recently 
conveyed to the Crown by the Saugeen Indians. 

Three miles past the railway we glide over a level fract into 
the straggling village of Hepworth. In the popular mind, which 
is apt to find a major amusement in slips of speech or plays upon 
words, this community has one distinction only: its name is en- 
cumbered with a superfluous letter. In the early days of the 

8 The Bruce Beckons 

settlement, it seems, the minister of the local Methodist cause, a 
Reverend Mr. Green, a native of England, was asked to bestow 
a name upon the place. At once, loyalty to his church brought to 
mind John Wesley's birthplace Epworth. His fellow-villagers, 
ignorant of Methodist history, accepted the designation just as 
they heard it pronounced, and "Hepworth," in print and on the 
tongue, it is to this day. 

At the crossroads in mid-village the traveler can quickly get 
his bearings in reference to the surrounding territory. The road 
to the left leads to Sauble Beach a few miles distant; the road 
to the right is the paved short route to Owen Sound. As we halt 
here we see a place that seems utterly barren of material interest; 
the terrain is deadly flat and the whole scene drab. But we are 
quite wrong: both above ground and below, Hepworth offers 
the unusual. 

This village whose situation seems to be depressingly low is 
actually reposing on a broad plateau with an elevation of 710 
feet. The ridge of sterile blow-sand that bounds the plateau on 
the east, just a quarter of a mile away, is really a geological 
monument, a precious relic of prehistoric antiquity the shore- 
line of long-vanished Lake Algonquin, the predecessor of Lake 

Hepworth's other wonder is hidden from the eye. Deep down 
under the village, through channels that pierce the limestone 
foundations of the Peninsula, flows a watercourse. Sometimes, 
especially in periods of flood and in the quiet watches of the 
night, villagers hear, below the foundations of their homes, the 
clamour of rushing water. Its source is Mountain Lake a few 
miles to the northeast. A mile west of Hepworth the stream 
bursts into the open as if fetched from the rock by Moses' rod, 
and, with the volume of a river, flows, in a course of modest 
length, through fields and woodland into the Sauble and thence 
into Lake Huron. Under the name of Spring Creek it has long 
been the most famous natural trout water in this part of Ontario. 

As we drive northward out of Hepworth the puffing of a loco- 
motive reminds us that we are running parallel to the railway. 
Shortly, the rails cut obliquely across our path from west to east 
and then begin to slip down the long gradient to the level of the 
Wiarton docks. A mile south of the town limits two signs point, 
one west to Boat Lake, the other east towards Kemble. 

In the light of our present errand these pointers merit our 

The Road to Tobermory 9 

notice. Boat Lake, as has already been said, was the vital link in 
the age-old portage route between the Georgian Bay and Lake 
Huron. The lift from the end of Colpoy'"s Bay, 'the site of Wiarton, 
to the marshy reed-fringed lake is about four miles. From Boat 
Lake the traveller had a choice between two courses: either to 
paddle down the Rankin River and from there by way of the 
Sauble into Huron, or to make two short portages, first into Spry 
Lake and from there over a narrow neck into the big water. It is 
possible that in the early summer of 1701 the first company of 
Cadillac's settlers 1 used this portage route across the Peninsula 
on 'their way to the Detroit River. We know that they came by 
way of the Ottawa and the French; to resort to this short-cut 
between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron would be the normal 
choice of guides acquainted with the distances and perils of 
these waters. 

The sign pointing toward Kemble rouses the plant-lover within 
us. But as keeper of treasured rarities it behoves me to speak 
guardedly. In widely separated places, all hidden deep within 
the shaded clefts and cliffs of a heavy hardwood forest, are three 
colonies of the rare Hart's Tongue fern. That is all I may say: 
find them if you can, for the quest is, in itself, well worth while. 

The view that greets us as we near Wiarton and the sparkling 
blue expanse of Colpoy's Bay is one of the most beautiful in the 
Canadian landscape. Around the shore is a frame of bold shining 
grey cliffs in a continuous, sharply drawn line. Far down the 
long bay to the northeast is the perfect background: three large 
wooded islands Hay, White Cloud, and Griffith. Reluctantly we 
turn away as the highway drops smoothly over the edge of the 
Escarpment into Wiarton. 

The site of this busy town, like the site of Oliphant, was laid 
out in the original survey of Amabel Township. Favoured by 
Nature and by founders of energy and vision the place was soon 
well on the way to good fortune. It seems to have received its 
first settler in 1866, but its lots were not put up for sale until 
1868. The town lies both in and around a spacious half-bowl 
formed by a recession of the cliffs landward, that is, toward the 
west. Residences are scattered over high levels and low levels 
alike, but stores, offices, and factories are kept, literally, down 
town. Early, Wiarton became an active centre of the lumber 
industry, the story of whose heyday and decline we tell elsewhere. 

1. Cadillac himself, for special reasons, took the longer route via Mackinac. 

10 The Bruce Beckons 

Today the place has two chief interests: on a large scale it serves 
the needs of numerous tourists, summer campers, and the per- 
manent residents of an extensive countryside; if we have regard 
for trade only and shut our eyes to geography, it is truly "The 
Gateway to the Bruce Peninsula." 

For us Wiarton is of special concern at this time in its role of 
a major vertebra in the spinal highway to Tobermory. From it 
branch off, one to the left, one to the right, two important "rib- 
roads." If we explore these in that order we shall go far towards 
understanding the geographical anatomy of the Peninsula. 

West "Rib-road" to Oliphant and Sauble Beach 

The west "rib-road" out of Wiarton is not unlike certain ribs 
of the human frame: its extremity does not lie at a right angle 
to the column from which the member springs. The extremity of 
the course we are pursuing is the mouth of the Sauble River, 
nine air-miles southwest of Wiarton. 

Our road leaves Wiarton close to the summit of the height of 
land that guards the town on the west as with a vertical defensive 
wall of stone. For a mile or two the pavement runs, with minor 
ups and downs and bends, at an elevation above the sea varying 
between 725 and 750 feet. Beyond that it begins to drop gradually 
but consistently. As we proceed we are interested by the number 
of excellent farms of considerable acreage and plainly bearing 
the marks of long settlement Their substantial, tidy buildings 
testify to the quality of the soil and of the character of those who 
till it. On both sides of the road appear an increasing number of 
moisture-loving treessoft maples, cedars, and tamaracs. Warned 
by these signs and by the perceptible descent in the grade, we 
are not surprised to find ourselves presently passing through a 
broad expanse of marsh. This is cut in two by the placid course of 
the Rankin River, which bears the waters of Isaac Lake south- 
ward into Boat Lake, the chief link, we recall, in the ancient 
portage route across the isthmus between Colpoy's Bay and 
Lake Huron. 

For us, the significance of the Rankin River rests upon its place 
in the geography of this part of the Peninsula. The quiet marsh- 
land stream belongs to a drainage system that has its source on 
the cliff-bounded highlands hard by the Georgian Bay. We shall 
see that source later on our way to Hope Bay. The outlet of the 
system is the mouth of the Sauble River. Here have been de- 
posited through the "sequent centuries" the sands and other soils 

The Road to Tobermory 11 

filched from the slopes of the Peninsula's high eastern flank. These 
the winds and waves of Lake Huron have ironed out and moulded 
into Sauble Beach and its long-flung dunes. In this single small 
system of springs, brooks, and lakelets we can see in miniature 
the structure of a great continental watershed. 

Three miles beyond the Rankin River bridge the highway sets 
us on the Lake Huron shore at Oliphant This modest hamlet 
holds a less lowly place in regional history than its situation on 
the coastal flats would suggest. It was named after Laurence 
Oliphant who, in 1854, conducted the dealings with the Saugeen 
Indians that persuaded them to transfer their peninsular lands to 
the Crown. In the first survey of Amabel Township the place was 
given a plot generous enough to accommodate a small city. Since 
it lay on the mainland opposite the nearby Fishing Islands whose 
fishing industry, though past its prime, was still flourishing, no 
one doubted that Oliphant would quickly attain the status of a 
business centre. Soon, however, the lake became more and more 
niggardly in its yields and the villagers began to realize what 
they should have seen 'at the outset: that the coastal waters here- 
abouts, varying in depth from year to year with the cyclic levels 
of the lakes, were not such as would make a real port. So Oliphant 
never got past the stage of being a dream in blueprint. After thirty 
years of deferred hope a new generation of surveyors juggled the 
once hopeful townlots into the farmlands that spread along the 
waterfront today. Oliphant's present role is that of a humble little 
port of embarkation for anglers, tourists, and campers who seek 
sport, rest, health and a unique type of scenery among the Fish- 
ing Islands or in sundry airy resorts along the rocky shore. 

The one-time sandy trail from Oliphant to Sauble Beach is now 
a good modern thoroughfare. It guides the traveller through a 
motley but highly interesting scene: sand flats, dunes of various 
shapes and sizes, mixed stands of conifers and hardwoods, and 
tantalizing glimpses of swampy recesses that are the natural home 
of our most gorgeous orchids and other water-loving plants. If 
we are strong enough in purpose to resist the temptations of 
these sights, the road will without delay carry us across the 
bridge by Sauble Falls, past the County Forestry Station, and 
thence, through a series of loops, to the mouth of the peninsular 
"River of the Sands/' 

Here we stand and look into the south. Before us spreads, on 
either hand, a flat strip of tawny sand several hundred yards 

22 The Bruce Beckons 

wide. Furlong by furlong, the strip draws away from our vision 
southward, rapidly losing breadth in the narrowing perspective 
until at last, miles away, it blends with 'the white of the breaking 
surf into a blurred line that loses itself in the haze of the horizon. 
This spacious sandy border of Lake Huron, far from being a 
vacant, solitary tract, is filled with life. It is at once a roomy 
playground eminently safe and inviting for bathing, and a high- 
way for wheeled traffic. In summer it is virtually a metropolitan 


On the landward side Sauble Beach is bounded by a sand dune 
as long as the Beach itself. Its long, continuous summit is crowned 
by a monotonous procession of summer residences ranging from 
near-mansions to the crudest of makeshift shelters. East of the 
frontal dune and parallel to it is still another dune and behind 
that still another. But more interesting than the dunes themselves 
are the spaces between them-the long, narrow, swampy troughs 
of sand enriched with the wealth of age-old humus. Not many 
years ago they were golden streets of a botanist's Elysium, paved 
with rare orchids and gay bladderworts. Thanks to neglect and 
the hand of the vandal little of their splendour remains. Here 
again, as in many another lovely comer of earth, man in his 
blindness has laid upon Nature's body wounds now long past 

In making our way back along the "rib-road" to Wiarton we 
could with pleasure and profit essay a hasty jaunt upshore. We 
could run on, for instance, to Red Bay and Howdenvale, resorts 
graced by charms all their own. We could even cross the appalling 
coastal flats as far north as Big Pike Bay and in so doing learn 
what a "limestone pavement* * really is. But moderation counsels 
us to return to our main road, lest in a multitude of things seen 
we miss the very thing we desire most a comprehensive vision 
of The Bruce as a clear-cut unit of land. 
East "Rib-wad" from Wiarton to Lions Head and St. Margaret's 

The junction of No. 6 which, by the way, is also Wiarton's 
Main Street and of the right-hand "rib-road" lies two miles north 
of town. It is now easily reached, thanks to the modern road- 
builder, who has literally sliced through a lofty cliff a long, steep, 
tunnel-like passage. At the first glance eastward along our new 
road we are apt to be deceived: it is not going to give us the 
simple direct course it seems to promise at the junction. The fact 
is that it abounds in angles rather than the gentle curves one 

The to 13 

would expect in a rib. Yet in spite of its deformities it is an in- 
dispensable member of the body of The Bruce. Indeed, in every 
sense it is the chief support of its long eastern lank. 

In a few minutes we drop down close to the north shore of 
Colpoy's Bay and into the substantial village of the same name. 
This settlement, the first we meet in Albemarle Township, is a 
few years older than Wiarton. Here the right-of-way swings 
sharply to the north and inland and, except for two right-angled 
bends, maintains that direction for eight miles. 

Not far beyond Colpoy's is a guidepost we should not miss. It 
beckons eastward to a place with an intriguing name Purple 
Valley; unfortunately, just now we can do no more than muse 
upon it. Yet how welcome is even a verbal hint of a splash of 
brightness in a land dominated everywhere by a brooding back- 
ground of gray. What there is about 'this modest crossroads hamlet 
to merit so royal a title is one of the mysteries of local history. 
Nevertheless, the place has a certain distinction, a distinction it 
shares with Mclver, a village a mile or two to the north. Both lie 
close to a wild, rocky tract of dense forest in whose deep shadows 
lurk many a clump of that much-sought fern, the Hart's Tongue. 
Plant-lovers almost reverence this comer of the Peninsula. That 
Nature here keeps a safe guard over her treasure I know too well; 
it cost me many years of search to find my first frond of this 
lowly, timid herb. 

Beyond Purple Valley there reaches toward the northeast and 
far into the Georgian Bay a mass of land of considerable area: it 
is actually a peninsula projecting from a peninsula, and in shape, 
when viewed on the map, reminds one of an oversized spur 
attached to an enormous heel. This territory, long set aside by 
the Crown as the Cape Croker Indian Reserve, is little known 
except in name. It deserves better recognition than is given it, 
for those who know regard it as an outstanding example of the 
kind of provision we can make to enable the Indians to develop 
strong, healthy communities of their own. This reserve is well 
worth a visit; it is rich in history and abounds in scenes of natural 
beauty. It merits what cannot, of course, be given here a whole 

We can only muse on Purple Valley, we must pass the signpost 
and go on our way northward. At the second elbow in the road 
let us pause for a basic lesson in geography. A few rods from the 
roadside, amid clumps of red osier dogwood and dwarf willow, 

14 The Bruce Beckons 

is the f ountainhead of the natural drainage system to which we 
have already referred, a system that conveys its waters across 
the Peninsula, first into Isaac Lake and thence, through the 
Rankin and Sauble rivers, ultimately into Lake Huron. Here in 
its first reach it is known as Albemarle Brook. A couple of miles 
north of its springs is a ridge from which in one sweep we can 
view the broad expanse of Hope Bay. Down a short side-road and 
around a veritable devil's elbow we twist to the shore. 

No other indentation on the east coast can show an unbroken 
wall of perpendicular cliffs of equal grandeur. Indeed, Hope Bay 
reminds us of a colossal stadium floored with blue, its broad, open 
end affording an unsurpassed view of the Georgian Bay. But the 
place has other claims upon our attention as well as those of 
scenery. Like Oliphant, Hope Bay is the locale of an unhappy 
venture of enthusiastic pioneers into the treacherous field of real 
estate. Doubtless it was from such ill-spent hope that the place 
got its name. The 2000-acre tract of forest that sloped upward and 
westward from the end of the bay was early plotted into a grid- 
iron of town lots and adorned with a pleasing designation Adair. 
But Adair never emerged from the realm of bright expectations. 
For lots put up at auction in 1880 there were no buyers. Adair 
now exists only as a mirage lingering among other odds-and-ends 
in the memory of the antiquarian and as a forgotten item on the 
pages of Albemarle's registry. 

In a course that loops like a serpent and rolls like the sea the 
road sways and rocks us pleasantly through scenes of alternating 
forest and farm from Hope Bay to Barrow Bay. Here, on the very 
edge of a lofty plateau, Judge's Creek ( one of the few streams to 
wear its way eastward through the height of land) bisects the 
village perched on the naked rock and cascades noisily into a deep 
craggy gorge. Thence it slips into a lakelet sheltered, on all sides 
except the east, by precipitous cliffs. To the fern-fancier I com- 
mend a visit to the chaos of immense angular limestone boulders 
gathered at the base of the cliffs. On their shaded, mossy sides 
thrive many kinds of the daintiest rock-loving ferns that grow. A 
patient quest will be well repaid. The seeker can hardly fail to 
come upon the strangest fern of all the Walking Fern, the 
Daddy-long-legs of our native plants, which steps delicately over 
the bare face of the limestone on its threadlike fronds. 

Our next pause is in the picturesque village of Lion's Head. It 
lies on Isthmus Bay, an indentation gouged out of the Escarpment 
by the last glacier. Its picturesque name comes from the profile of 

The Road to Tobennory 15 

a lion's head that overhangs the Georgian Bay from the shaggy 
brow of a nearby cliff. The place though small in area and popula- 
tion has always been of great regional importance. On its own 
modest scale it is a port with a two-way traffic; it is what business 
would call an entrepot. In its time it has played a changeful role 
in the very changeful industry of fishing. In this day of better 
roads and swifter motor cars it is a popular rendezvous in summer 
for tourists and campers, and all the year round for the inhabitants 
of a large territory. 

Still looking into the north we climb out of Lion's Head to the 
summit of a high ridge from the far side of which we presently 
slip down, with a pleasure that increases with each rod we 
advance, into one of Ontario's most impressive natural scenes. For 
two miles the road hugs the very brink of a lofty limestone bench. 
From this point of vantage we can see far below us on our right 
almost every foot of the wave-washed shoreline of Isthmus Bay. 

At the north end of this straight course the road, at first to our 
regret, turns us inland. Soon we discover it is leading us into a 
veritable labyrinth, or rather plunging us into a heaving sea of" 
soil and rock; we are among the Forty Hills. Here a driver needs 
to keep a tight rein on his nerve, ever alert to cars suddenly 
dashing towards him as out of nowhere, or to the still greater 
peril of local horse-drawn vehicles overtaken from behind. Now 
we understand what our friends have told us of the east side of 
the Peninsula. The hills are indeed high and abrupt and, by the 
same token, the valleys deep and sudden. Did ever a road bend 
in more awkward places? But we can take comfort from the 
thought that every Sunday in all weathers, fair or foul, in winter 
as in summer, many people safely pass this way to church. If we 
boldly essay every corkscrew twist and let no declivity however 
startling daunt us, we too shall reach that same destination. 

There it stands before us on the crown of one of the Forty 
Hills St. Margaret's of Cape Chin. To many it is the Stone 
Church of the Wildwood. Let us halt beside it; the scenes to 
which the road would lead us farther on Dyer's Bay and Gillies 
Lake can best be reached by another and less tortuous route. 
Just now it is of greater profit to our souls and more restful to 
our bodies to pause and ponder here a little while. The story of 
how the walls and tower and roof of this little House of God 
raised themselves stage by stage out of the rocks of the hills, out 
of the trees of the forest, will be told at length elsewhere in this 

16 The Bruce Beckons 


Back again at the crossroad two miles out of Wiarton we 
resume our course toward Tobermory. To the natives this high- 
way, smooth surfaced at least in summer over most of its length, 
is appropriately known as the Centre Road. The cost of building 
it so solidly in the early twenties must have been greater than the 
assessment of the entire Peninsula at the time. Nevertheless, this 
generous gift of a short-lived "Fanners' Government" has been 
for nearly three decades a channel carrying a steadily increasing 
inflow of prosperity into the Peninsula. 

After a straight westward reach of two miles we come to the 
first marked "curvature" in the "spine." Rounding this to the 
right we find ourselves facing northwest on a highway that holds 
tight to that quarter for a score of miles. Ever on the lookout for 
cross ways we soon spot the first one: the west arm leads to Isaac 
Lake and the east to Berford Lake. Just beyond, Albemarle 
Brook hurries across our course on its way to Lake Huron. Then 
for a considerable distance we pass through haylands, sparse 
pastures, and stands of mixed hardwood. Here and there we espy 
on the left trails promising to guide us to places on the Huron 
shore that we have already noticed Red Bay, Howdenvale, and 
Big Pike Bay. 

But of a sudden the landscape changes: over the brow of a 
barren gray ridge we fairly dive into a spread of lush green, a 
broad flat tract of cedar and tamarac the Eastnor Swamp. The 
road shoots through it straight as an arrow. Then, rod by rod, the 
trees thin out, stricken down over the years by fire and axe, and 
in their place stretches a wide expanse of well-drained grasslands, 
tilled fields, and tidy homesteads. It is plain even to a greenhorn 
that this was once the bed of a prehistoric lake; from its rich store 
of silt many families now draw goodly livings. Through this 
comfortable pastoral scene we continue until we come to a 
junction conspicuously labelled Ferndale. To the right a mile or 
two distant lies Lion's Head; this we shall not attempt to revisit, 
but, leaving the main thoroughfare for a time, we swerve to the 
left. In so doing we are not adding to the length of our journey: 
we are but choosing two sides of a large rectangle in preference 
to the other two, because they add variety to our knowledge of 
The Bruce. 

We head towards Lake Huron till an arrow pointing to Stokes 

The Road to Tobermory 17 

Bayand Tobermory turns us north. The road we are now on is 
at once important and interesting. It is important in that it serves 
in a year many thousands of peoplehordes of cottagers and 
campers as well as the inhabitants of the region. It is interesting 
because it is the last reasonably good relic of the Road to Tober- 
mory of forty years ago. Though "improved," it retains in no 
small measure its original, primitive features. 

A six-mile sample of trail-breaking for wheeled traffic through 
a rough terrain of rock and dense stands of mixed forest, it is a 
veritable museum piece among roads. Like the road through the 
Forty Hills on the east side, it is a natural roller-coaster, but its 
hills are lower and shorter and follow each other in closer 
succession. Locally they are known by a less formidable, kindlier 
name Seven Sisters. But are they not really seventy? One of the 
"sisters" will suddenly throw you backward and in a moment, 
before you can steady yourself, will toss you forward against the 
windshield. The next of the Seven, on the very crest of a sharp 
rise, will fling you to the left, and, before you can straighten your 
course, jerk you back to the right. One after another this family 
of hills makes the car a bucking bronco on wheels. Unable to see 
ahead through rock ridges and around corners you drive on in 
fear and trembling. Can we wonder now at the tales of the first 
motorists who ventured this way, at the bouts they had with sea- 
sickness before they got to Tobermory? It is with relief to body 
and mind that we bid the Seven Sisters farewell as we ride 
smoothly into the village of Stokes Bay. 

From this typical Lake Huron fishing settlement we bounce 
northward over a short series of ridges which, in their treatment 
of travellers, are akin to the Seven Sisters. Soon we cross the 
township line from Eastnor into Lindsay and then rejoin No. 6. 
The junction marks the beginning of a genuine curvature in the 
"spine" a semi-circle that swings around the west end of little 
Lake Ira. This uncomely expanse of mud, rushes, and water is 
an object lesson in the transient character of lakes. Plainly, Lake 
Ira, like several others in the Peninsula, is well on its way to 
becoming an open flatland of deep, rich soil. Nature is slowly 
filling its basin. Each year's rains and melting snows wash into it 
more earth from its sloping banks. Into this fertile bed Nature 
plants the thick, fleshy roots of pickerel weed, cat-tails, and water 
lilies. The coarse network catches and holds the humus of the 

28 The Bruce Beckons 

annual decay of leaf and stem and twig. Some day the floor of 
Lake Ira will be green and orderly with gardens. On a grand scale 
of space and time Lake St. Clair offers the same lesson. 

As we press on to The Tub haste must not be allowed to hide 
from us another little body of water Ague Lake. An opening 
through second-growth hardwood on our left leads to it. Here, in 
the low water of late summer, lies a broad sheet of smooth lime- 
stone on which the last glacier has written the record of its 
passage. In deeply incised parallel lines (which geologists call 
striae ) it tells us plainly it came from the northeast and moved 
on into the southwest. 

Half a mile beyond Ague Lake a bridge carries us across Spring 
Creek, better known as Rattlesnake Creek, a trout brook of note 
meandering westward through a tangle of alder thickets to Boat 
Coves. Soon on our left we see signposts directing wayfarers to 
such well-known coastal inlets as Pleasant Harbour, Little Pine, 
and Big Pine, the latter two being perfect landlocked basins for 
small craft and for schools of black bass seeking food in shallow 

We now find ourselves in the very heart of the territory of 
limestone pavement. It is the scene of an unlucky experiment 
with sheep-raising on a grand scale the Miller Lake Ranch. 
Wolves and a growth of grass too stingy even for sheep ended 
the enterprise summarily. But the tract, though unkind to live- 
stock, is by no means a waste. Thirty years ago it lay stripped by 
fire of trees and herbage, its stark gray rock glaring skyward. 
Today it is cloaked with a strong stand of jackpine. How un- 
quenchable the spark of life! In the midst of this self -revived 
patch of forest an important "rib-road" branches off to the east. 
Its frayed ends on the Georgian Bay lead to Gillies Lake, Dyer's 
Bay, and the only "flowerpot" on the mainland the Monument, 
or, as it is known to some, the Devil's Pulpit. 

Putting off to another day a ramble in that quarter we roll on 
to the last reach almost straight as a die of the spinal highway. 
We are now up to the very shoulders of the Peninsula, the thickest 
part of its body. Just beyond the township line between Lindsay 
and St. Edmund we pass over the bridge that spans the Crane 
River. Here a gravelled trail crosses our route. To the west it 
winds through a heavy forest of tall spruce and healthy second- 
growth pine to Johnston's Harbour; to the east it will take us to 
McVicar, the site of the first saw mill to be set up in these 
northern parts, and to a revelation of what the will and skill of 

The Road to Tobermory 19 

man can achieve in his fight against hard lands: the most charm- 
ing farm home in the Peninsula and mile-long ribbons of haylands 
sliced out of dense mixed forest, 

As we speed along the highway, now graded to a four-lane 
width, we resist the lures of the byways beckoning the traveller 
to sand dunes and beaches, to the haunts of the elusive trout, to 
lakes concealed by heavy stands of red oak. Fields spread out on 
both sides, houses become more numerous, and in a minute we 
are slipping past rows of them lining a real street that leads down 
to the water's edge. Here we find a tidy harbour neatly framed in 
a border of docks beside which are moored a great variety of 
craft ranging from rowboats to imposing cruisers. This is Tober- 
mory's inner haven, Little Tub. A short way off we see the big 
steam ferry beside her wharf. Northwest of us and on the other 
side of a great rocky projection, lies Big Tub. 

A glance at Tobermory itself will give us at least a partial 
understanding of its life and importance. Some people call the 
place a harbour, but they fall short of the truth. Tobermory is 
two harbours, or rather three. Together the three form two 
havens, an inner haven for smaller craft and an outer haven for 
ships of deep draft and heavy burthen. The inner haven consists 
of two marvellous, canal-like channels that lie close to each other 
Big Tub and Little Tub each cut evenly out of the limestone by 
an ancient glacier as with an instrument of fine precision. Its 
perpendicular sides are natural wharves. The outer haven is most 
impressive a circular basin three or four miles -in diameter 
shielded from violent winds by an arc of lofty islands that stretches 
from west to east, a basin spacious enough and deep enough to 
give safe shelter to a whole navy. Tobermory is one of the great 
havens of the world. 

Who among its many settlers of Scottish birth or descent gave 
it its name? Nobody now knows. But whoever he was he must 
have been a man of Mull, for no other could at a glance see how 
like the Tobermory of his native isle was new-found Collins Inlet, 
at the peak of the Saugeen Peninsula. The manifest resemblance 
so warmed his heart that he could not resist changing its name to 
something that kept bright every day the memory of his Scottish 
island home. So Collins Inlet became Tobermory or, in the homely 
vernacular of the region, "Tubbermurry," or just plain "The Tub." 
Perhaps in the words that follow we too can perceive some 
features common to the two harbours, one of the Old World, the 
other of the New. 

20 The Bruce Beckons 

We got safely and agreeably into the harbour o Tobermory, before the 
wind, which for some days has always risen about noon, came onward. 
Tobermory is really a noble harbour. An island lies before it; and it is 
surrounded by a hilly theatre, . . , There will be sometimes sixty or seventy 
sail here. There was [sic] today twelve or fourteen vessels. To see such a 
fleet was the next thing to seeing a town. The vessels were from different 
places. . . . After having been shut up in Coll, the sight of such an as- 
semblage of moving habitations gave me much gaiety of spirit Mr. Johnson 
said, "Boswell is now all alive. He is like Antaeus; he gets new vigour 
whenever he touches land." I went to the top of a hill fronting the harbour, 
and took a good view of it. 

Boswell wrote those lines on October 14, 1773, during his visit 
to the Hebrides with Dr. Johnson. With a few changes of detail 
they can be read as a broadly treated sketch of the Tobermory we 
know in The Bruce of the Great Lakes of North America. 

But not yet have we come to our goal. Veering to the right, we 
follow the convex edge of the sickle-shaped channel of Little 
Tub. Suddenly a gaunt limestone ridge lying athwart the right- 
of-way stops us short. Capping this barrier is a building holding 
aloft a legend that spells finality: TRAIL'S END. This is 
North Point, The Brace's John o' Groats. 

From the look-out perched on the ridge we gaze upon a 
majestic scene. To the northeast, perhaps four or five miles away, 
a couple of lonely islands rear green-capped heads Flowerpot 
and Bear's Rump. Northwest of us an arc of islets and islands, 
from Doctor to Cove, enfolds a deep-water haven spacious enough 
to shelter an armada of the largest ships. The generous expanse 
of waters that reaches out toward the pole star is bounded in the 
remote background by a solid though faint line that might be 
either shadow or land. This is Great Manitoulin and its outlying 

Can we do other than pause and wonder? Though our recon- 
naissance has been as summary as the flight of a roving bird, we 
have seen much. By much I do not mean, of course, merely many 
things. What we have really seen and, perchance, understood, is 
a sharply defined, unique unit of land, a veritable country in 
itself, with a soul of its own. If we have understood this, then 
we shall also have understood something else of far greater 
moment the folk who love to spend leisure days and weeks 
roaming over the face of this land, and, above all, the folk who 
have chosen to live their lives, for richer or for poorer, for better 
or for worse, within its borders. 

Chapter 2 


I HE Lord God who planted a garden eastward in Eden did 
not forget to plant a garden northward as well. It is none 
other than the great clear-cut promontory of the Great 
of which we have just made a cursory survey, the Bruce 
Peninsula of Ontario, or, simply and crisply, The Bruce. Those who 
do not at once recognize the name know but little of this comer of 
the world. But a garden? you protest. This long, steel-grey blade 
that cleaves a whole lake in two? Yes, truly a garden. I know it 
well. Moreover, it is a garden which has served as a model for 
many a rockery designed to brighten the drab corners of cramped 
city lots. A rock garden is a garden for a' that. 

Let the unbeliever go to the Peninsula in May, when the lowly 
Bird's Eye Primula drapes the gravels and shingles of the lake 
shore as with scarves of pale voile; when the Dwarf Iris, native 
only to the north part of Lake Huron, lays strips of green, dotted 
with the blue and gold of tiny fleur de Us, along the beaches above 
the high-water line. Or go in mid-June when the damp, sandy 
flats of the lakeside inlets are covered with mile-long rugs, more 
gorgeous than Persia ever dreamed, woven of mingled scarlet 
Painted Cup, Blue-eyed Grasses, and Golden Ragwort. Or go 
even in July when the boggy nooks among the tamaracs are 
lighted by the most colourful of our native orchids, the stately 
rose-purple and white Queen Lady Slipper. Even a fleeting 
glimpse of any of these will banish all remnants of the ancient 
prejudice that where there is rock life is not. Are not the rocks the 
very stuff that soil is made of? Are not the pockets, both great 
and small, which catch and hold the soil die chinks, fissures, 
gullies, and valleys carved out of rock? 

Yes, The Bruce is a garden, a garden fostering many orders of 
the race of plants herbs, grasses, sedges, mosses, lichens, ferns, 
shrubs, and trees. It abounds, too, in beasts and in fowls of the 
air. Even that "humblest beast of the field,*' the serpent, is there, 


22 The Bruce Beckons 

and, as in the garden planted eastward, has its part to play in the 
northern gardener's life. 1 

Altogether, The Bruce has within its narrow bounds a host 
of those things that have always roused wonder in the souls of 
men those that fly, those that move upon the land, those that 
swim in the waters. The author of the Book of Proverbs could 
have written of The Bruce: "There are three things which are 
too wonderful for me . . . the way of an eagle in the air; the way 
of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the 
sea." All these may be seen by one who goes about The Bruce 
with open eyes. 

But this land is above all a garden of trees; so the story of the 
garden is in no small part a story of how the trees have been 
tended by the keepers of the garden. In a most spectacular way 
they gave a defiant answer to Macbeth's indignant question: 

Who can impress the forest, bid the tree 
Unfix his earth-bound root? 

For the keepers allowed the forest to be impressed, and the trees 
to march out in unending columns along the ruthless ways of 
commerce. But to understand all this we must know something 
of the making of the garden. 

In essaying to describe so great a natural phenomenon as the 
Bruce Peninsula I find myself in a dilemma. The words of a 
professional scientist will give us facts, but perhaps clouded by 
a haze of technical terms and untouched by wonder. On the 
other hand, the zealous nature-lover, apt to view the world in 
the rosy hues of his own feelings, may paint a picture which 
though pleasing can be misleading. But, happily, the dilemma is 
quicldy resolved: a sequence of passages can be found that will 
set forth the facts and yet stir the imagination. In a book 2 of 
great charm their author leads his readers into the Bruce in such 
a way as to kindle in them the expectation of finding it to be a 
land abounding in wonders. 

"Great geological formations have an uncanny habit of writhing 
up in unexpected spots/* writes Professor Pease. ". . . The Niagara 
Escarpment has a way of disclosing itself in unforeseen places, 
sometimes in the form of high and often weirdly shaped cliffs, 

1. See chapter XI, "The Serpent." 

2. Sequestered Vales of Life, by Arthur Stanley Pease, Pope Professor of Latin 
Language and Literature, Harvard University, and formerly President of Amherst 
College; Harvard University Press, 1946, pp. 58-9. Permission to quote has been 
given by both author and publishers. 

A Garden Northward 23 

elsewhere in curious flat pavements of limestone. One is pre- 
pared for it at Niagara Falls, but less so in the woods south of 
Syracuse; you cannot escape it as your train in Ontario climbs 
laboriously westward." Were Professor Pease a resident of Ontario 
he would surely have cited two other similar ascents of the Escarp- 
ment the lumbering journey of the Canadian National to Guelph 
and thence north to Wiarton; and the corkscrew climb of the 
Canadian Pacific up the Caledon Mountain and over the height 
of land, Ontario's Blue Mountains, which at Dundalk are 1700 
feet above the sea. 

"The old acquaintance/' continues the author, "crops out in the 
Bruce Peninsula, on Manitoulin Island, and in curiously sculptured 
precipices near St. Ignace, only to sweep around to the west across 
Michigan to northeastern Wisconsin. . . . The limestone 'pave- 
ments' may be seen at their best in the Bruce Peninsula and on 
the neighboring Manitoulin Island, where it appears as though 
the country were artificially paved with sterile flat slabs of lime- 
stone, separated at intervals of four or five feet by vertical cracks 
a few inches in width, of considerable depth, and with little or 
no trace of vegetation. When one looks into these cracks, however, 
he discovers a strange but undeveloped flora of ferns and tiny 
flowering plants, protected from the parching rays of the sun 
and nourished by the richness of the limestone." 

There is The Bruce in a nutshell. The sketch prods me to add 
a touch or two to bring out my personal feelings however whim- 
sical they be. Many years ago, long before steamers began to 
carry motor cars between The Tub and South Baymouth on the 
Manitoulin, I used to brood, in mild though futile resentment, 
upon the hardship inflicted on man by the interposition of a broad 
gaping strait between these two ports. I found that the old- 
timers felt as I did. Nowhere does the ancient phrase, "so near 
and yet so far," apply more aptly than here. The traveller who 
wants to go to Manitoulin can stand on the cliffs by The Tub 
and through the haze descry his destination as it were just over 
the way. In horse-and-buggy days and when the automobile was 
a novelty, anyone who desired to go on wheels from one of these 
ports to the other had to make a veritable grand tour of several 
hundred miles, in fact, the complete circuit of the Georgian Bay 
clockwise or counter-clockwise, by way of Owen Sound, Barrie, 
Gravenhurst, North Bay, Sudbury, and Little Current Was the 
Bruce Peninsula meant to be a bridge joining the north and south 
mainlands of prehistoric Lake Algonquin, Huron's predecessor? 

24 The Bruce Beckons 

I am yielding, I know, to the false allurements of the great 
"pathetic" fallacy. Yet I seem to see, untold eras ago, great hands 
attempting to bridge the expanse of waters between southern 
Ontario and the North Shore, On the south coast of this span they 
set on end a colossal slab of grey stone and let it topple toward 
the north. Alas! the shock of the fall shatters its far extremity 
into many fragments. These still lie where they crashed, the 
islands of the strait Fitzwilliam, Cove, Echo, Flowerpot, Bear's 
Rump, and many others. So what in my musing might have been 
a giant causeway now appears, on the map, as a narrow stone 
jetty that reaches out vainly toward a distant shore. 

But fantasies solve no problems. Happily, we are not entirely 
ignorant of what has taken place. In some early twilight age, we 
are told, there was no space here to be bridged, for the Peninsula, 
Manitoulin, and the satellite islands were all one piece of the 
Escarpment. But what force was great enough to cleave the solid 
mass apart? The answer is simple: ICE. The ways of ice are 
wonderful and without number. The same force that breached 
a channel miles wide through the stone ramparts of the Escarp- 
ment also wrought upon them with a daintiness of touch that 
passes human marvel. Out of their hard faces it produced rock- 
flours of amazing fineness to become an ingredient of soil, and 
then carved out countless minute receptacles in which to hold it. 

Whence did the ice-fields come and whither did they move? 
They have left behind them the records of their course. The most 
legible of these are delicately engraved on rock. Look for them 
on the broad sheet of dolomite that forms the east shore of shallow 
Ague Lake. They appear as fine parallel grooves scored into the 
shoreline as if by a gigantic harrow. All these scorings, undeviating 
as the rays of the sun, run straight into the southwest. Into that 
quarter, then, once rolled the ruthless juggernaut of the ice-sheet. 
Another record tells us from where the ice came: the hosts of 
"drift" boulders left behind it as it retreated reveal that the far-off 
northeastern land of its origin was none other than tipper Labra- 
dor, the mother lode of such rocks as those of which the boulders 
are composed. 

If we wish to know how the ice-masses do their work we do 
not have to go out of Canada; the ice-field of the Columbia River 
is a perfect object-lesson. The famous Agassiz once gave an im- 
pressive answer to our question: "The glacier is God's great plow." 
The comparison is as near to perfection as it could be. One day 
last summer I thought I had found a better one. A few miles south 

A Garden Northward 

Glacier's Record of Its Path (Stokes Bay) 1 

of Tobermory we were forced to halt our car while a fleet of 
ponderous modern bulldozers crashed through a limestone ridge 
and a range of small gravel hills to open a new reach of Highway 
No. 6, A parody of Agassiz's words slipped off my tongue: "The 
glacier is God's bulldozer." But in a moment I humbly gave the 
palm back to Agassiz. No, the glacier does not push dislodged 
material in front of it as does the bulldozer. On the contrary, like 
the plow it cuts and scores its way over the surface leaving its 
debris along its edges. So each glacier that passed this way 
plowed across the original Escarpment. Thousands of feet thick 
it was driven forward by the thrust of the snow and ice cease- 
lessly piling up behind it. As each mass in its turn pressed on it 
planed off one stratum of limestone after another. Much of this, 
milled into powder, mixed with the flours of the various "drift" 
rocks from Labrador. Each time the process went on for thousands 
of years. Then came a period of indecision, full stop, and the 
start of a long sluggish retreat into the frigid northeast where the 
march had begun. When the very last of the ice masses, the 
Wisconsin, had withdrawn, it left rich gifts behind it. With the 
advent of a warmer climate a plant life of divers forms burst 

1. The bridge shown in the above illustration was destroyed by a violent seiche 
in May 1952 while this book was still in the press. 

26 The Bruce Beckons 

forth. Each autumn twigs and leaves decayed into precious 
humus; this, added to the rock-grist already there, became a 
true, balanced soil. Thus did the garden of the Bruce come into 

Besides doing the petty work of preparing an infinite variety 
of garden plots, the ice shaped the massive contours of the whole 
peninsula, giving its surface a gentle tilt to the west an average 
of twenty feet to the mile from the crest of the Georgian Bay 
cliffs all the way to Lake Huron. On the Lake Huron side, in the 
form of bare shelves of limestone, it dips beneath the waters again 
and again, each time farther out than before in the new guise of 
reefs and shoals that are a menace to men and ships. Moreover, 
the moving ice shredded all the western coast into the ragged 
fringe of indentations that are its most striking feature. Of these 
the largest is beautiful Stokes Bay. 

But we must not forget the lofty east front of the Escarpment. 
In the main, though sorely disfigured by the battering-ram of the 
glaciers, this stood firm. Even today its stance is defiant. To realize 
its power of resistance one need only glance at the massive cliffs 
of the tallest of the Cabot's Head bluffs: 309 feet of solid 
perpendicular rock, To gouge harbours out of an obstruction like 
that was almost too much even for a glacier. That is why there 
is only one thoroughly safe and commodious haven on the east 
side of the Peninsula Colpoy's Bay, the pride of Wiarton. 

When the Wisconsin ice departed other agents took over the 
task of giving form to the land mass. Slower and more modest 
though they were, they did their work well. Among them, the 
weather with its own special tools sunshine, rain, snow, wind and 
frost all the year round wore down and chipped away, grain by 
grain, flake by flake, the hard stone surface. In the growing season 
plants carried on the heavier work which man now does by means 
of explosives: with their cleaving power root and rootlet blasted 
great blocks of stone out of hill and cliff. In time the Peninsula 
took on the appearance it had on the day the Indian first beheld 
it. And little had this changed, in all probability, in that January 
of 1616 when Champlain saw it and recognized it as a great 
peninsula comparable to Brittany in his native France. But what 
a pity, I often think, that this most understanding of observers 
did not see the Peninsula in its midsummer glories rather than in 
Its midwinter mantle! Of what a garden he could then have told 
the world! 

Chapter 3 


This country is fine and pleasant, for the most part 
cleared, shaped like Brittany and similarly situated, 
being almost surrounded and enclosed by la Mer Douce. 

THESE words of Samuel Sieur de Champlain are the first 
we know to have been written concerning the mainland of 
the Bruce Peninsula. They set forth partly what he himself 
saw of that tract in mid-January of 1616, and partly what he 
learned about it from its Indian inhabitants. But sixteen years 
passed before the words appeared in print and were supported 
by a map. In so long an interval many important details must have 
faded from even so keen a memory as Champlain's. His statement 
must therefore be examined with the greatest care. There is an- 
other, almost startling, reason for caution; not until 1788 a blank 
of nearly two centuries after Champlain's visit is there another 
reference to the mainland of the great promontory. The silence is 
mysterious. We know that in the meantime eminent travellers 
passed that way, but not one of them left even a scribble to tell 
us what the Peninsula looked like. The reason for such neglect 
must have been real and final; in 1788 we learn that it was. 

The value of Champlain's observations depends, of course, upon 
where he was when he made them, and this he virtually tells us. 
When he states that the country was "fine and pleasant" and "for 
the most part cleared," he as much as says that he had never 
gone far into the Peninsula proper. What we know of the density 
of its virgin forest when the Saugeen Indians ceded the land to 
the Crown leaves no doubt that the area could never have been 
"for the most part cleared" at any previous time. Champlain seems 
to have got at least as far as the site of Owen Sound and to have 
explored very hastily a section of the Tobacco Nation country 
lying to the southwest. He probably skirted the northern boundary 
of the Neutrals' territory. In the patchwork of clearings he saw 
here he recognized the fields in which the natives raised their 


28 The Bruce Beckons 

crops of "Turkey com" and tobacco. It was very easy for the 
transient visitor to leap to the conclusion that the Peninsula was 
likewise dotted with similar open spaces devoted to tillage. 

Since, at the best, Champlain s view of the region in the middle 
of winter must have been very limited, his statement that the 
country was a peninsula could have been based only on what he 
had heard from the Indians. Its likeness to Brittany was his own 
conception. In the escarpment bounding the waters of Owen 
Sound he had seen enough rocky cliffs and crags to be reminded 
of the famous presquile of his native France. At any rate, his 
comparison could not be bettered. 

The sight of the sorry, tattered remnants of The Bruce forest 
today always makes me ask: What was the appearance of this 
wild land in Champlain's day? One answer has come from a 
most unlikely quaiter-the realm of fiction in a word-picture 
drawn by that intriguing creature of Oliver Goldsmith's fancy, 
the Chinese philosopher and Citizen of the World. It is a country, 
he would say, "where nature sports in primeval rudeness, where 
she pours forth her wonders in solitude; . . . from whence the 
rigorous climate, the sweeping inundation, the drifted desert, the 
howling forest . . . banish the husbandman and spread extensive 
desolation; . . . where the brown Tartar wanders for a precarious 
subsistence, with a heart that never felt pity, himself more hideous 
than the wilderness he makes." For "drifted desert" read "sand 
dunes and vast beaches," and for "Tartar," "American Indian"; 
then behold The Bruce much as it must have looked in that 
January of three centuries ago when Champlain and Father Le 
Caron tramped through the snows to its borders. 

The explorer's sketch of this "fine and pleasant" country, while 
cheerful, was not glittering enough to charm his fellow-country- 
men into locking after him. The first to follow his trail were drawn 
not by the lure of gaining new lands and glory for France but 
by the noble zeal to save pagan souls. On November 1, 1639 
most fittingly for such an errand, All Saints' Day Fathers Charles 
Gamier and Isaac Jogues set out, presumably on foot, for the 
country of the Petuns or Tobacco Nation. Upon this region they 
bestowed the grandiloquent tide, "Mission of the Apostles." Ten 
of its villages they took over as stations and gave them the names 
of the Twelve Apostles. One of these villages became St. Simon 
and St. Jude. This we know from Father Du Creux's map of 
1660 to have been in the north part of the Peninsula close to the 

An Unknown Land 29 

Georgian Bay. In the winter of 1640-1 Father Gamier with Father 
Pierre Pijart made several trips among the stations of the Mission. 
The missionaries' activities here in two seasons are duly set forth 
in the official reports of the Huron Mission the Relations of 1640 
and 1642 but, mysteriously enough, there is not a syllable about 
the appearance of the territory in which any station lies. 

In 1650, with the destruction of the Jesuit mission in Huronia 
and the dispersal of the Huron peoples, began a period of com- 
plete silence. The Iroquois terror caused the entire Indian popula- 
tion of the Peninsula and Manitoulin Island to flee from their 
lands to shores and waters in the west. For years even the white 
man shunned the area as if certain death awaited him there. 

But unexpectedly our hopes of ascertaining some facts con- 
cerning the great peninsula are encouraged when some one re- 
minds us of Pierre Esprit Radisson, who recorded that in 1654 he 
made a clockwise circuit of the Georgian Bay. In this account, 
which was not written till 1669, Radisson claims to have led a 
party of Frenchmen and Indians southward from the mouth of 
the French River to the scene of the ill-fated Mission to the 
Hurons. This he describes as "a delicious place, albeit we could 
but see it afarre off. . . .** Then in a vague, confused narrative 
Radisson traces the hard, tedious passage of his flotilla westward 
along the shore of Nottawasaga Bay, until, after many days, it 
arrived at a large island where the "wildmen" found their wives 
and children awaiting them. But what island was this? No one 
knows for sure. And no wonder, for in recent years exacting critics 
have found good reasons for believing that this particular story 
of Radisson's is a fiction; though apparently based on second-hand 
knowledge of a few facts it is nevertheless an invention, a cun- 
ning device of Radisson's to enhance his reputation as successful 
explorer and thus secure for himself in England a commission to 
explore Hudson Bay. It is useless, then, to expect from this source 
authentic news of a peninsula the author had never even glimpsed. 

About forty years after the dispersal of the Huron Nation the 
Baron de Lahontan skirted the Lake Huron side of the forbidding 
peninsula. Perhaps he has dropped a word or two about it? The 
loquacious Baron has left us an account of his endeavour to attack 
the Iroquois from the rear, an enterprise which but for the barrier 
of the Peninsula Champlain and others would have undertaken 
many years before. On June 2, 1688, the Baron tells us, he left 
Sault Ste Marie bound for Lake Erie and the Iroquois country. 

30 The Bruce Beckons 

With his company of Ottawa and Sauteur warriors he made 
Manitoulin Island in four days. "We coasted upon that Isle a 
whole day; and being favoured by a Calm, crossed from Isle to 
Isle, till we made the East-side of the Lake. In this passage we 
cross'd between two Islands that were six Leagues distant the 
one from the other. . . /' "Between two Islands"! Doubtless Fitz- 
william and Cove. But not a word about a mainland. Once again 
our hopes of news are shattered. 

Manifestly, both leader and company knew little of the lands 
and water hereabouts. We learn from Lahontan's map, a sketch 
on which, as he unctuously assures us, he marked only things he 
had himself seen, that to him the Peninsula was not a long, out- 
stretched arm of land; it was no more than a tiny wart barely 
visible on the body of a solid land mass and lying in the shadow 
of imaginary islands. All the way from Cove Island to the River 
of the Hurons, the Saugeen, the land he saw on his left was actu- 
ally the west coast of the Peninsula. But he did not know it. 

Nevertheless we shall perhaps find maps in general more re- 
warding than written records. Out of a series of early maps that 
show the Great Lakes about a dozen yield some positive informa- 

Boisseau, 1643 (after Champlain, 16S2) 

What Champlain saw and heard of The Bruce in 1616 was not 
given to the world in the form of a map until 1632. We now know 
that the outline he presented was a huge if honest guess. The 
draughtsman has given the Peninsula an axis lying east and west 
parallel to the lines of latitude. On the scale employed he has 
stretched out the already long limb of land to the prodigious 
length of four or five hundred miles. More, he starts the St. Clair 
River at Cape Hurd on the Peninsula itself and makes it flow, 
generally eastward, in a long, sweeping curve to the south that 

An Unknown Land 


Sanson, Paris, 1656 

Du Creux, Paris, 1660 

leaves out Lake Erie, right into Lake St. Louis, that is, Lake 
Ontario. Champlain's conception of the lie of the region was 
indeed lamentably incorrect. 

In 1656 Sanson included in his map of New France an attempt 
to depict the outline of the Peninsula. In a tiny space he skilfully 
brought out two important points: that this tract was part of the 
Petun or Tobacco Indian country; that somewhere in its extreme 
north was the Mission of St. Simon and St. Jude. Four years 
later the Jesuit, Father Du Creux, in a somewhat better sketch 
reaffirms the site of the Mission. As a former member of the 
Huron Mission he must have known about where the remote 
station was established. So it cannot have been by chance that 
to indicate this outpost he placed a little round dot in the hollow 
of a certain dent in the upper eastern shoreline of the Peninsula. 
This dent seems to be what is now called Dyer's Bay. 1 Somewhere 
near here, then, one should search for vestiges of the lost Mission 
of St. Simon and St. Jude. 

From the records of such keen observers as the Sulpicians, 
Galinee and Dollier de Casson, we should expect much. Actually 
we learn little from their map of 1670, but the information is at 
least positive. They clearly show the long chain of the Fishing 
Islands on the west shore of the Peninsula and throw a ray of light 
on the mainland opposite: it is too rugged and barren a country, 
they note, even for game to live on it. But above all they recognize 

1. Near this point de Lory's map of 1725 shows an Indian community named 
Papinachois, "Funny Men/* It was possible, then, for an Indian settlement to 
exist in this area. 

Dottier de Casson and 
Galinee, Paris, 1670 


Father Hennepin, 1683 

de Maurepas, Quebec, 1699 

Hermann Mott, 1709-20 

Mortier, Amsterdam, c. 1710 

An Unknown Land 


the relative size of the Peninsula and its true tilt straight into the 

Obviously, the good Father Hennepin had not seen the Sul- 
picians' sketch when he brought out his map in 1693. He seems to 
have been so obsessed with the magnitude of Niagara Falls that 
he left The Bruce out of Lake Huron altogether. In its place he 
put in a couple of islands that existed only in his fancy, 

For the next three-quarters of & century the map-makers of 
Canada show a strange ignorance of the Peninsula. Their flounder- 
ing is difficult to understand, for while the Frenchman's and the 
Englishman's knowledge of the remotest parts of the Great Lakes 
Is growing apace, their knowledge of the great presquile that 
obstructs the very centre of the lake system is rapidly fading out. 
In 1699 Maurepas catches a glimpse of the Peninsula's form and 
orientation. Ten or fifteen years later Moll, in a British-made 

(TAnville, Paris, 1755 

Mitchell, 1755 

Bellin, Paris, 1755 

Gather Mann, Quebec, 1788 

Q4 The Bruce Beckons 

chart, magnifies the area into colossal proportions and squeezes 
the Georgian Bay into a mere slit in the coastal wall. About the 
same time Mortier, in Amsterdam, with equally ludicrous dis- 
tortion of facts, inflates the Bay while shrinking the Peninsula to 
a mere bulge of the mainland. 

By 1755 one would expect both French and British to be 
accurately posted in regard to all Lake Huron. But what do we 
find? In three maps of that year one British and two French- 
the Peninsula is presented with three different shapes not one of 
which is as near the truth as Sanson's and Du Creux s maps of 
1656 and 1660. It is surprising to find that, only four years before 
England took over New France, and twenty before the Thirteen 
Colonies essayed to become a new nation, there should be so little 
accurate information about a prominent geographical feature. 

It is a document of three decades later that finally, with a few 
authentic words, banishes our wonder. In 1788 a certain Gother 
Mann, who had been commissioned by Lord Dorchester to ascer- 
tain what parts of the British coasts and waters of Lake Huron 
should be chosen as points of defence in the event of war with 
the United States, produced a map to show his findings. Only in 
a few details was he wrong about the shape of the Peninsula. And 
in the blunt, plain words that Mann inscribed across the face of 
his map we can discern why he did not venture close enough to 
shore to see what the land was really like. "The whole coast of 
this projecting Point being a steep rock Cliff without any Camp 
Ground or Landing Place is extremely dangerous for Boats or 
Canoes to go round and is therefore rarely attempted. Of those 
who have ventured several have perished." Here at last is the 
explanation for the ignorance of the other explorers who passed 
that way. 

In 1815 the gist of Mann's warning is echoed by David 
Thompson, Astronomer Royal, when assigned a commission like 
Mann's. Of Cabot's Head he says: "It is dangerous going round 
this head as [at] the least swell of the lake there is no possibility 
of landing for which reason the Portage is always taken/' Mann's 
chart is the first to show the portage ( that is, from Colpoy's Bay 
to Boat Lake and thence to Lake Huron), though for untold 
centuries it must have been the Indians' usual route between the 
two big waters. And for many years after Mann and Thompson 
it served Indian and white travellers alike. It was by that passage 
that in 1848 the two former Hudson's Bay Company men, Captains 

An Unknown Land 


John Spence and William Kennedy, made their way by canoe 
from Owen Sound to the mouth of the Saugeen River to found 

Before the end of 1815 still more light had been thrown upon 
the Peninsula. In September of that year Captain W. F. Owen 
made a survey of its coasts and waters. He took his mission seri- 
ously. He allowed no fears of reef or shoal or waves to keep him 
from digging out the kind of facts he sought. His effort was fruit- 
ful: it produced the first safe chart of the region and afforded the 

Captain Owen, 1815 

first glimpse of the Peninsula's wooded shoreline. On his map 
Owen wrote: "All the land here represented is covered with 
stunted Timber, but has no soil whatsoever, being loose Rock and 
Moss only/' 

And what land was this? He leaves us in no doubt: the narrow 
strip of shales and broken limestone that lines the base of the 
cliffs from Cape Hurd to Cabofs Head and thence winds south- 
ward like a ragged green ribbon to Cape Croker and even beyond. 
What Owen said about that coast in 1815 is true today, except 

36 The Bruce Beckons 

that the ribbon is now cut in many places to make room for 
summer cottages. 

There is a third achievement of Owen's that must be revived 
in the memory of Canadians: he was the first to give our Peninsula 
an English name of its own. Keenly conscious of the young 
country's debt to its early explorers he called the rugged land 
mass "Little Cabotia." But the name never caught the fancy of 
government or of the public. It was no sooner coined than it 
vanished into the limbo of forgotten tags. 

John Gait of the Canada Company in his autobiography of 
1833 adds an illuminating touch to the picture. After a visit to the 
"island of the Flower Pots, lofty, rocks which rise from the Lake, 
shaped like such utensils, and bearing a gigantic bouquet of 
trees" his gunboat, the Bee, bore away for Cabot's Head. "With 
the sight of [this]," he notes, "I was agreeably disappointed, 
having learned something of its alleged stormy features, and 
expected to see a lofty promontory; but the descriptions were 
much exaggerated, we saw only a woody stretch of land not very 
lofty, lying calm in the sunshine of a still afternoon, and instead 
of dark clouds and lurid lightnings, beheld only beauty and calm." 

A personal experience of fifty years ago helps me understand 
the fears that kept travellers of the seventeenth century from 
knowing the Bruce Peninsula. Within one year it was my lot to 
view, from the decks of large ships, both sides of the Peninsula. 
Early in October, 1900, I boarded the City of Collingwood at 
Sarnia for Fort William. A heavy northwest gale forced the 
steamer to sail so close to the Ontario shore that with the captain's 
glass we could see the seas foaming over the off-shore reefs of the 
Peninsula. Beyond this unbroken line of white lay a low, flat land 
as forbidding as Sable Island in an Atlantic storm. But where 
was Champlain's lofty foreland that reminded him of Brittany? 
The very next spring I learned. 

When one morning in May of 1901 the good ship Manitoba 
rounded Cabot's Head on her way to Owen Sound, there in full 
view of all on board towered the beetling, forest-crowned cliffs 
of Champlain's new-world Brittany. The thin gray and green line 
of craggy heights ran southward, league upon league, parallel to 
the steamer's course. The continuous, cold, ashen face of that 
inhospitable rampart of stone fairly shouted over the waters: "No 
shelter here." I had discovered a master fact of The Bruce: each 

An Unknown Land 87 

coast of this rock-bound promontory is in its own way just as un- 
friendly as the other! 

But what I saw of both coasts I saw from the safety of great, 
staunch ships. Unnerving indeed must have been the terror even 
of those hardy, daring men who first ventured into these waters 
in frail cockleshells of bark. When we censure, as we sometimes 
do, the ignorance and the lagging progress of the pathfinders of 
our inland seas, we should remind ourselves that we are apt to 
be unfair judges: we live in a day of easy, swift, and safe power- 
navigation and of charts little short of perfect. 

The Bruce is one of the world's remarkable peninsulas. Like the 
others it has been cast by Nature as though, by design, to block 
a main highway of water traffic. What Jutland is to Germany and 
Denmark; what the Iberian peninsula is to the Mediterranean 
and western Europe; what stormy Mount Athos was to Greece 
and to the invading Xerxes, so on its own modest scale the Bruce 
Peninsula is to Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay. Germany 
neutralized the obstacle of Jutland by digging the Kiel Canal. 
Xerxes dodged the perils of Athos by cutting the neck of land 
behind it. But here comparisons end. The Bruce remains the 
impediment that Nature made it and there is no reason to change 
it. Today anyone who has need to traverse the base of the Penin- 
sula from Lake Huron to Owen Sound, may, within the law, 
make the journey in less than half an hour. 

What, then, shall we do with The Bruce? The answer is not 
far to seek. Enjoy it, enjoy it, I say, for it abounds in wonderful 


Wreck of the Severn 

After contemporary sketch by E. Tucker 

Chapter 4 


THE crisp note written by Gother Mann in 1788 beside his 
outline of The Bruce was more than a warning to the 
mariners of his own day; it was a solemn omen of events yet 
to be. What he really said was simply this: one must always expect 
wrecks to occur off the rock-bound shores of Lake Huron's great 
promontory. In 1815 David Thompson, the Astronomer Royal, 
added, as we have seen, a warning of his own. 1 

Though both warnings refer only to canoes and other cockle- 
shell craft, their mention of the lack of landing-places would 
make them apply to larger craft as well. Already the clumsy 
mackinaw boats were avoiding these treacherous waters if they 
could; they preferred to sneak through the longer route afforded 
by the long chain of straits between Manitoutin and the North 
Shore now known as the North Channel. By this time small two- 
masted schooners had begun to appear here and there on the 
Georgian Bay; as one by one they cautiously felt their way into 
the little-known waters beyond, they made sure to give a wide 
berth to any stretch of The Brace's coast near which they had 
to pass. The very mention of the Peninsula put fear into the 
sailor's heart. 

The coming of steam was welcomed as a great boon by those 
who sailed the Upper Lakes. True, it did not banish all dread 
of sailing in these perilous waters but it lessened apprehension 
appreciably. The steamer's greater draft kept it from taking short 
cuts that small sailing craft could pass through with ease, but the 
loss was more than made up In its ability to hold to safe, stated 
courses. As for tempest and high seas, the sailor, on wager, gave 
the steamboat the odds of outriding all but the very worst. But, 
above all, steam was a money-maker. In the love of quick gain 
one may see the real cause of many of the early wrecks. At 
all costs traffic must not be allowed to lag. So, back to its route 

1. See p. 34. 


42 The Bruce Beckons 

was sent many a patched-up derelict. Others, mysteriously remade 
in divers ways, were commissioned afresh to ply their trade under 
new names and, perhaps, under new owners. "Changes in owner- 
ship were frequent; indeed, buying and selling vessels seemed to 
have some of the same charm that has long been associated with 
horse trading and in all probability there were some deals that 
rivaled horse trading in their slickness/' 1 

The list of ships lost in all parts of Lake Huron in the nine- 
teenth century seems as long as the roll of the martyrs of old. 
But we can spare ourselves the distress of reading all of it, since 
our sole concern is with the Bruce Peninsula. But even that record 
is too long for us. Our present effort, then, must be limited to 
setting forth what is known of the last hours of only a few of the ill- 
fated vessels, and the men and women aboard them, that perished 
off the Peninsula's unfriendly coasts. 

In reviving these stories one is always aware of working under 
restraint, a curb imposed by the nature of the sources at one's 
command. At one time or another all these stories appeared in 
the press, either daily or weekly, as records of fact. Only one is 
less than thirty years old; several belong to the last decades of 
the nineteenth century; one came out in 1854. The substance of 
the accounts must be accepted as it stands. Only a few changes, 
and these superficial, are permissible: shifts in order and emphasis; 
the use of different words and phrases where desirable; and, to 
help the reader get and hold his bearings, the insertion of refer- 
ences to points of geography. 


For a side-wheeler the Bruce Mines was a pretty good ship, 
though sailors who knew the Upper Lakes thought a propeller 
better suited to her particular business and to the waters of the 
North Channel of Lake Huron. She could not have been longer 
than 125 feet, for otherwise she could not have passed through 
the locks of the Welland Canal of that time. Owned by the 
Montreal Mining Company, which in 1847 purchased and began 
working the copper deposits at Bruce on the North Shore, thirty- 
odd miles east of Sault Ste Marie, she was the only link between 
this lonely industrial outpost and the older settlements of Upper 
and Lower Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway, a branch of 

1. Fred Landon, Lake Huron (Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs Merrill Co 
1944), p. 311. 

Perils of a Freshwater Sea 43 

which now serves the North Shore, did not then exist, and the 
steamer was the miners' lifeline: to them she was tools, machinery, 
mining supplies of all kinds, food, and news. It was her task to 
see that the volume of material stores was always equal to the 
needs of the community. Her most important trip of each year was 
the last one: before navigation closed early in December she had 
to convey to the mines enough of everything for the winter. 

With this vital errand on her books the Bruce Mines, late in 
November of 1854, took to Toronto a cargo of sorted slag and 
copper ore. There it was to be loaded on to other vessels for 
transport to Britain and modern smelters. This long and costly 
haul had for several years been necessary because the smelter at 
the Minesthe first copper smelter in Canada had been burned 
down soon after its erection in 1848. At Toronto, in the place of 
the ore the steamer stowed away a large and very valuable mixed 
cargo: naturally enough, one important item was a great quantity 
of blasting powder. Clearing from Toronto she crossed Lake 
Ontario, passed through the Welland Canal, and made good time 
through Erie, St. Glair, and lower Huron. 

On Monday, November 27, the Bruce Mines put in at Goderich 
at the mouth of the Maitland River. There she took on a heavy 
load of various supplies, probably mostly foodstuffs since these 
were the only materials which Goderich could produce in volume 
at that time. In the evening of the same day with twenty-six 
people on board, four of whom were passengers, she steamed out 
of the little port and turned her bows straight into the northwest. 
The point for which she was headed was the entrance into the 
strait on the east side of Drummond Island. Her competent 
skipper, Captain Frederick McKenzie Fraser, counted on deliver- 
ing her cargo at the Bruce dock the next day. At the same time 
the whole population of the place, keenly conscious that their 
fate for the winter depended on the coming of the steamer, was 
in imagination anxiously following her progress step by step 
to her destination. 

Apparently, at the time when Captain Fraser left Goderich 
there was little wind and no sea; the last leg of the voyage gave 
promise of being completed without delay. So when near mid- 
night a terrific gale burst out of the west he was as rudely taken 
by surprise as was any of the passengers. In only a few minutes, 
it seemed, the waves rose to the height of hills which rolled 
tumultuously and with unbridled violence against the vessel. Her 

44 The Bruce Beckons 

high freeboard and shallow draft made her the plaything of such 
ruthless power. A great sea suddenly threw her in one direction, 
and just as suddenly while she was still in motion another sea 
tossed her back. This subjected her relatively light hull to all 
manner of uncalculated strains. In no more than a quarter of an 
hour the pounding and the twisting had so loosened her frame 
that the men on board could feel it give and quiver like a shed 
about to fall apart. A number of seams were wrenched open and 
through them the water poured like a river into the hold. Already 
everybody could see that the steamer was sinking. 

If any chance of safety was left it lay in the possibility of pro- 
longing the time she could remain afloat, "Overboard with the 
cargo!" commanded the Captain. And forthwith into the raging 
seas went every article, every packing case that could be reached. 
Unfortunately, by this time most of the ship's load was submerged 
in the water flooding the hold. In spite of the heroic effort to 
lighten ship the water gained. All hands worked frantically at the 
pumps in frequent relays. By daylight the fires under the boilers 
were put out. The engines stopped dead. The rudder was too 
badly broken to be of use even if the ship had still any headway. 
The steamer was bobbing about like a helpless cockleshell on the 
foaming, wind-blown crests of the waves. 

At two o'clock in the afternoon an officer at the mast-head said 
he could see land to leeward. Through the haze and spray it 
seemed to be about twenty miles away. As far as one could reckon, 
the rate of the steamer's drift to the east was about a mile an 
hour. The crew's systematic labour at the pumps had enabled 
her to keep afloat several hours longer than had at first seemed 
possible. The united hope of all was that they might still keep 
afloat long enough to let the ship run aground on an offshore 
reef; from there they could easily row to land in the boats. But 
all hope was suddenly destroyed by the report of the carpenter: 
rushing up from below he shouted that the ship would go down 
in five minutes, perhaps even in less time than that. 

At once there was a concerted dash for the boats. For twenty- 
six people there were only two boats, and they were small. Utter 
panic and disorder seemed imminent But on no ship commanded 
by Captain Fraser could any such scene prevail. He was a com- 
mander of the British marine tradition. He had his wits about 
him, and a brace of pistols. Drawing these from their cases he 
cocked them and, holding one in each hand, firmly but calmly 

Perils of a Freshwater Sea 45 

declared he would shoot the first man who tried to get into a 
boat before he, Captain Fraser, gave the order. There was some- 
thing about the man that left no doubt that he meant what he 
said. There was perfect order. 

To launch two lifeboats and stow twenty-six people in them 
was a formidable task for an uncertain five minutes. Fraser as- 
signed one boat to the mate, Duncan Lambert of Goderich, and 
the other to himself. With him he took nine men. This boat was 
lowered without the slightest difficulty. But with the mate's boat 
everything seemed to go wrong that could go wrong. The tackle 
that held it suspended got into a snarl and the ropes would not 
run through the pulley-blocks. A glance was enough to show the 
mate that an attempt to adjust the tackle might mean death for 
himself and all in his care. So with quick strokes of an axe, so 
close together that they were like a single stroke, he cut the 
ropes from which the boat was dangling in midair, and the boat, 
containing the mate and fourteen others, hit the water with a 
force that seemed to crack the keel. 

There was to have been a sixteenth person on board the ship's 
carpenter. He, poor fellow, had been left on deck when the boat 
dropped: he made a wild leap for it but missed it by inches, 
plummeting into the water like a stone. This was the only fatality 
of the disaster. When the steamer sank a minute or two later the 
lives of all twenty-five men in the boats were suddenly threatened. 
But this tragic doom was averted when her promenade deck 
parted from the hull and floated between the vortex and the 
overcrowded lifeboats. Its movement was so prompt that it 
seemed to be impelled by a power with a purpose: to interpose 
an effective barrier between a company of human souls and 
certain destruction in seventy fathoms of water. 

Through the story told in the Globe of Toronto by one of the 
Bruce Mines' passengers who did not sign his name to his letter 
we know something of the experiences of the men who were 
saved in the mate's boat. Once afloat in that tiny craft, though 
still unaware in just what quarter safety lay, they shouted 
triumphantly in unison. But the chill of cold waters soon calmed 
their exuberance. Their escape, it was plain, was simply the ex- 
change of one danger for another. At best they were only five 
miles nearer land than when they had first sighted it. For naviga- 
tion they had no more than two oars among them, and, by the 
favour of chance, two ship's buckets. Two men at the oars, how- 

^Q The Bruce Beckons 

ever, were a vital power in the crisis: they were able at least to 
hold the boat's bow on land while wind and sea provided head- 
way. And so the lagging hours went on. 

As the men pulled away from the sinking wreck Captain Fraser 
exclaimed with conviction that neither lifeboat could last ten 
minutes. In the case of Mate Lambert's boat it was the buckets 
that foiled the fulfilment of that gloomy prophecy: methodical 
bailing in the intervals of seconds between wave-crests kept the 
water below the fatal level. While two men rowed the same two 
all the time-thirteen went through the dull routine with the 
buckets. Nothing but the stark knowledge that upon this effort 
alone their lives depended kept them from yielding to the 
paralysis of cold and cramp. 

About ten o'clock at night they heard breakers on the right, 
but in the darkness could not see how close they were. Then they 
heard waves crashing on the left and, a minute later, on botibt 
sides at once. Yet in front of them there was no sound but that 
of the screaming gale. They seemed to be passing through a 
narrow gut between reefs. Tingling with wonder they let the 
wind carry them on. In five minutes, which seemed hours, their 
boat steadied to an even keel in an expanse of calm water. The 
roar of the surf was now behind them. In the utter blackness of 
the night they groped about the basin in which they found them- 
selves, feeling their way now on this side, now on that. At last 
they touched a point of rock and dragged themselves ashore. 
When day broke they saw they were on a small island lying in 
the lee of Cape Hurd, the northwestern tip of the Saugeen, now 
the Bruce, Peninsula. The eyewitness of the scene writes of the 
experience as of a miracle. "If we had touched even one hundred 
yards farther down than we did we should have been dashed 
against the rocks and all inevitably lost. That dangerous coast 
extended about one hundred miles, but it was the will of the 
Almighty that we should land on the only spot of all that coast 
where we could possibly save ourselves, and that in the dark/' 

To get a fire going was everybody's first thought a fire big 
enough to warm the fifteen shivering survivors at one time. Drift- 
wood in many forms brush, branches, sticks, and logs both large 
and smalllay all about in abundance. A huge fire was soon blazing. 
The two men, a deckhand and the passenger who later gave this 
story to the world, who without relief had worked the oars from the 
scene of the wreck to the barren island, labouring continuously 

Perils of a Freshwater Sea 47 

from three o'clock in the afternoon to eleven at night, were 
dragged by their companions from the boat. Their muscles were 
so stiff and cramped that they could not move an inch. They were 
carried to places beside the fire. Not until their clothes steamed 
like boilers did the rigidity of their bodies begin to disappear. 
They were conscious of thawing out as it were inch by inch and 
only after an hour or more of this process were they able to walk 
freely. The passenger later noted, with amazement, that the ordeal 
had left him no ill effects. 

Daylight enabled the party to appraise the lie of the land and 
waters. There they were, fifteen weary but doughty men, ship- 
wrecked without an ounce of food on a desolate islet. Of them 
all only one the mate, Duncan Lambert knew anything of the 
Georgian Bay at whose rugged portal they lay stranded, and not 
even he knew in detail the course to the nearest inhabited port. 
That, by his rough reckoning, was probably Owen Sound. In his 
ignorance, for which he could be forgiven, he magnified its dis- 
tance to 130 miles, a figure that fairly stunned his companions. 
The gap that yawned between their first meal and themselves 
could be traversed only by water; the mainland of the Peninsula 
was pathless. But just when their spirits had sagged to their 
lowest depths they were cheered by the sight of a column of 
smoke rising over a nearby island. Captain Fraser had also made 
his way to land. 

By means of smoke signals Lambert caught the attention of the 
other party and summoned them to join him and his men. In the 
general parley that ensued a clear decision was reached: the only 
way promising even the faintest hope of safety was to row to 
Owen Sound. Not a man dared utter aloud the question that dis- 
turbed them all: Could they, without food, hold out long enough 
to keep the oars going? One fact, however, gave them cheer: 
Captain Fraser knew every mile of the route. On the other hand, 
he took care not to mislead the men. In all honesty he could not 
assure them that the distance would be shorter than they feared 
it would be; if, in order to take advantage of the lee afforded by 
the high cliffs on the east side of the Peninsula, the boats were to 
hug the shore all the way down to the Sound, the distance might 
prove to be all that the mate had estimated. 

Early in the morning of Wednesday, November 29, the two 
lifeboats set out for Owen Sound, the Captain leading. Eastward 
they pressed, scudding at a brisk clip before the gale which was 

48 The Bruce Beckons 

even stronger than when the steamer went down. Before long 
both boats passed the entrance to Collins Inlet, which a few years 
later was called by some homesick man of Mull, Tobermory. No 
lighthouse was to be seen on Cove Island, for none was placed 
there until 1859. During the trying voyage nobody, even the 
passenger who later wrote about it, attempted to keep a record 
of the day-by-day progress of the mate's boat. In each all too 
brief spell of daylight all eyes dwelt intently upon every out- 
standing landmark as the boat slowly drew towards it and just 
as slowly let it blend into the hazy distance behind. Cabot's Head, 
Cape Chin, Lion's Head, Cape Croker, Hay Island, all were 
names still unknown to the mate and those with him. 

During the first night the two boats lost touch with each other. 
Somehow, the mate's boat pulled ahead and kept the lead to the 
very end. At eight in the evening of Saturday, December 2, the 
last relay-pair of exhausted oarsmen rowed their craft into Owen 
Sound, four days and five hours after the Bruce Mines went 
down. At three next morning, Sunday, they were joined by 
Captain Fraser and his crew. 

At Owen Sound fortune still smiled on the passengers of the 
lost steamer. As if by prearrangement, a schooner, soon to set sail 
for the Mines, lay at the dock at which they landed. After rest 
and food they boarded the vessel and in a day or two reached 
their destination. Uppermost in their thoughts was the gallant 
mate. Through stormy, strange waters he had guided safely to a 
distant haven a small, ill-equipped lifeboat, laden with a precious 
burden of human lives. By his calm poise he had held their spirits 
high above despair; by his courage he had given them strength. 
To at least one of the passengers it seemed that merely to feel 
gratitude to such a man was not enough; here was one of whom 
the whole country should hear, So without delay he sent a letter 
to the Toronto Globe. It appeared in print on December 16, 1854. 
In his zeal to pay the full meed of tribute due to a true hero, the 
writer of the letter failed to sign his own name. However, he had 
gained his end: henceforth, Duncan Lambert, mate of the Bruce 
Mines, could never be entirely forgotten* 

Chapter 5 


WITHIN the span of a single day, September 11, 1881, 
there took place two wrecks of vessels engaged in the 
Lake Huron trade. The almost simultaneous occur- 
rence of these events brought into relief a fact of great importance 
to navigation, an obvious fact and one as ancient as ships and 
the art of sailing, but one all too often ignored: the nature of a 
cargo and the way in which it has been stowed away can create con- 
ditions in which even a very moderate gale may with amazing 
swiftness send a vessel to the bottom. 

On this fateful day in September, 1881, the propeller 1 Columbia, 
which sailed on the Chicago-Collingwood run, was, in fifteen 
minutes, sunk in Lake Michigan through the shifting of her 
cargo of grain, although at the time the wind was blowing no 
more than thirty-six miles an hour. In the same unlucky twenty- 
four hours the Canadian schooner Regina was dragged down to 
her doom by the leaden mass of a water-logged load of salt, and 
that when she was only a few minutes away from the safe, soft 
cushion of a sandbar. 


In 1881 William Foster of Owen Sound had two small schooners, 
the Annie E. Foster and the Regina, which plied a busy though 
tramplike trade among the various ports of the Georgian Bay 
and Lake Huron. And a very profitable trade it was, for, though 
the cargoes were small and of a motley character, there were 
comparatively few keels for the available business. Naturally, 
then, it paid an owner to keep a ship in service just as long as 
she would remain afloat, and the waters of the Lake and the 
great Bay seemed to teem with ships in the last stages of old 
age. If a census of sail and steam of this region were available 

1. That is, driven by a screw rather than by paddlewheels. 


50 The Bruce Beckons 

now it would probably shock even the greenest seafaring man of 
our day. The owner of the Annie E. Foster and the Regina adroitly 
concealed their age but the appearance of the two vessels was 
such as to leave no doubt that they were very old. Indeed, in the 
gossip of the Bay ports they were frankly spoken of as "coffin- 
ships/' "She ought to have been laid up on the shore to rot out 
her last years/' was solemnly written of the Regina thirty years 

The Regina was in the command of Captain Amos Trip, a 
sailor well and favourably known in all parts of Lake Huron, and 
was manned by a crew of four. That Trip was not unaware of the 
rumours about his ship was revealed casually a short time before 
her last voyage. While she was loading lumber at Parry Sound a 
friend gingerly sounded the captain's opinion of her. "Aren't you 
a bit leary, Amos, about sailing the old tub in the fall? It's going 
to blow hard any day now." "No, no, man," jovially replied the 
skipper; "no, the old tub's all right: so long as she's carrying 
lumber she'll float ashore somewhere/' 

But in treating a serious matter so jocularly Amos Trip over- 
looked for the moment the miscellaneous character of the Regina s 
cargoes; in no two voyages in succession could he be sure she 
would cany the same kind of load. On the eleventh day of 
September, 1881, she was carrying not lumber but a full load of 
salt from Goderich, the "salt town" at the mouth of the Maitland 
on the Ontario side of Lake Huron, and was bound for some port 
on the Bay. She had safely passed the lights of Kincardine, 
Southampton, and Stokes Bay in order, had rounded Cape Hurd, 
and was nearing Cove Island, when she was suddenly struck by 
a violent squall. In an amazingly brief time the seas rose like small 
mountains and beat upon her furiously. She was in grave trouble 
almost at once. Vicious strains on her hull caused by the sheer 
weight of her inert cargo quickly opened many seams in her 
planlking. Through the multitude of tiny gaps thus created water 
began to trickle into the hold. In a few minutes the many trickles 
became a strong stream that could not be slowed down, much less 
stopped. The salt drank it up, as a blotter imbibes ink, until it 
could hold no more. 

Everyone on board peered into the hold with an anxiety that 
kept mounting with the minutes. How much more water would 
the old tub take in and stay on top? At what moment would her 

The Eighties Take Their Toll 51 

limit be reached? It differs among ships: the fatal climax is one 
thing for one ship and something else for another. What was it 
for die Regina? The captain's answer was one of cheer and hope: 
the crucial moment had not yet come. "With the help of all hands 
I can soon beach the Regina on a sandbar just off the shore of Cove 
Island; I know exactly where we are." But the crew were in no 
mood for cheer and hope. With one accord they shouted: "She's 
going down right now." They shoved the ship's one boat over- 
board and all dropped into it and rowed ashore. Captain Trip 
refused to leave his ship. 

Afterwards the crew had a story to tell their story and they told 
it. They made mention, of course, of such pertinent matters as the 
direction of the wind during the last phase of the fatal voyage, 
the combination of conditions that forced the men to desert their 
ship, the time at which she went under. Of these and other like 
details they had a lot to say. Somehow the way in which they 
said them left their hearers with a feeling that a great deal had 
been left unsaid. The truth is that the tale fell upon uneasy ears, 
ears that became still more uneasy as the days went by. 

Facts about the storm soon began to come in from all parts of 
Lake Huron; no one could help noticing that much of what the 
crew had said did not fit these facts. For instance, the wind was 
not blowing from the quarter the crew said it was. Later, the 
Regina $ clock was found; it had stopped long after the time the 
crew claimed the ship had foundered. As the vessel lay on the 
bottom not far from the shore of Cove Island the top of a mast 
stood out above the water. It was manifest she had drawn so close 
to land that had she been kept afloat a few minutes longer she 
could have been safely beached on soft sand without the loss of 
a single life. Captain Trip had been right, and, honourable seaman 
that he was, he stuck to his conviction to the very end which was 
death itself. 

The gale that sent the Regina to her doom also blew on the 
waters off Red Rock lighthouse outside of Parry Sound. There 
her sister ship, the Annie E. Foster, found herself in grave diffi- 
culties. But her crew were of a different fibre: with courage and 
patience they brought their vessel through the storm and sailed 
her into the long, sheltered channel that leads to the town of 
Parry Sound. Of die crew of the Regina many hard things were 
said. Of these the hardest were that their cowardice needlessly 

52 The Bruce Beckons 

caused the sacrifice of a seaman of great skill and bravery, Amos 
Trip, a ship's captain with a supremely high sense of duty. 


The fate of the little steamer Jane Miller is one of the riddles 
of the Georgian Bay. One day near the close of navigation in 1881 
she left Owen Sound for Meaford with a heavy load. Here she 
took on thirty tons more, and, as some one said later, "staggered" 
out into the Georgian Bay on her way to Wiarton. At half -past 
eight in the evening of the same day she tied up for a few minutes 
at Big Bay near the entrance of Colpoy's Bay. After stowing away 
some fuel there she slipped out quietly into the night. 

It so happened that a certain Mr. Cameron, who lived a short 
distance west of Big Bay near what is now known as Cameron's 
Point, was watching that night for the arrival of the Wiarton 
Belle from Owen Sound. Since snow had begun to fall it was 
hard for him to see clearly over the water. But about nine o'clock, 
during a lull between snow flurries, he distinctly saw the lights 
of a westbound vessel pass by. A couple of miles farther on, close 
to Spencer's Landing where the Jane Miller was to take on more 
cordwood, another observer on shore saw the lights of a steamer 
go by toward the west. That was the last that was ever seen of 
the Jane Miller. 

In June of 1880, soon after she came off the stocks at Little 
Current on Manitoulin Island, the Jane Miller was purchased by 
Captain Andrew Port. He put her at once on a route that ran 
from Owen Sound to Wiarton, northward up the east side of the 
Bruce Peninsula to Tobermory, and from there along the south 
shore of Manitoulin Island. Somehow ships have a way of ac- 
quiring reputations from their skippers; very soon the Jane Miller 
had acquired a reputation favourable, one is glad to record from 
her skipper. But Captain Port, though known on the Upper Lakes 
as a skilful and experienced sailor, was nevertheless regarded as 
impulsive and rather prone to take chances. There was solid 
enough ground for this opinion. One trip that he made in the 
winter of 1880 became the theme of a story told again and again 
for many years in Georgian Bay ports. 

One day after the intense cold had set in for good Port took 
the risk of attempting to convey a party on the steam tug, Prince 
Albert, from The Tub to Michael's Bay which lies two or three 
miles west of South Baymouth on Manitoulin. The distance in- 

The Eighties Take Their Toll 53 

volved was not more than twenty miles. But the heavy seas and 
baffling currents of the straits forced him to.put back to The Tub. 
Here in the still water of a narrow, landlocked harbour the tug 
was frozen in. After a month's stubborn struggle Captain Port 
fought her free and headed her for Wiarton. Again she was 
trapped and again the captain freed her. Once she floated in the 
open waters of the Sound, Port, to his bitter chagrin, discovered 
that her rudder had been wrenched off by the ice. Yet of such 
stuff was he made that he brought her through a fortnight of 
helpless drifting safe into her home port. 

The night of November 25, 1881, when Roderick Cameron saw 
the last sign of the Jane Miller, was exceptionally stormy. A wild 
gale was blowing and carrying with it blinding snow squalls. So 
furious were the blasts that many ships, as was learned afterward, 
were on the alert and ready to take extreme measures to make 
sure of safety. One of them, a staunch screw steamer, City of 
Owen Sound, while making a run into Owen Sound that night 
had all her anchors set to be let go at a moment's notice. Later, 
her captain declared that the storm was the worst he had ever 
fought his way through in a whole lifetime of sailing the Great 

Next morning it was clear to those at Spencer's Landing who 
had expected die little steamer to touch there, that she had not 
come in, for the wood she was to have taken on was still piled 
on the dock. Nor did she reach Wiarton. An anxious day went by 
without a word of her and by evening fears of the worst spurred 
every town and hamlet on Colpoy's Bay to vigorous action. 
Scarcely a habitation was there along its shores that was not 
vitally concerned, for here were the homes of most of the Jane 
Millers passengers and crew. 

Distress and uncertainty filled the minds of the searchers. Had 
the Jane Miller gone to the bottom? If so, it was not high seas 
that sent her there, for the wind, being from the southeast, was 
off shore and could not possibly have raised waves of dangerous 
height over the narrow span of water between the shore and the 
line of the steamer's course. Only a Pacific typhoon could heap 
up really threatening seas in so narrow a space as that Had 
the steamer's engines been crippled? In that case she would be 
adrift in sight of land. Had she run aground and held there? Then 
her mast and some part of her upper works would show above 
the water. Or had she crashed on a reef, smashed a hole in her 

54 The Bruce Beckons 

hull, and plunged to her doom in deep water? If that were true 
bits of wreckage would already have been cast up somewhere on 
shore, or perhaps on the north side of Colpoy's Bay or even on 
one of the islands that lie athwart the mouth of the Bayon Hay, 
or Griffith, or White Cloud. One aspect of the situation was 
especially disturbing: at the time she left port the Jane Miller 
carried no ballast; by far the greater part of her load was on the 
main deck; she lacked in her hold the additional weight of the 
wood she was to have taken on at Spencer's Landing. Only one 
conclusion seemed possible. Everyone shrunk fearfully from draw- 
ing it 

On the first Sunday after the tragic disappearance, a pleasant 
calm day, a Mr. McGregor and his son put out in a rowboat from 
Spencer's Landing to make a search of nearby shores and waters. 
They headed for a little bay on White Cloud Island. But before 
they got there their attention was drawn to a strange agitation of 
the surface of the water in a certain spot the steady rising and 
gentle bursting of bubbles. At the same time they noticed that in 
a small area roundabout the water was slightly though uniformly 
discoloured. The men took their bearings from landmarks on 
shore and went on into the bay. There on the beach before them 
were some of the very things they sought: a broken flagstaff, four 
oars, and a few small packages of freight. Something more con- 
vincing still was found close by: five cloth caps. Later, they were 
identified as belonging to members of the Jane Miller's crew. 

The McGregors' report at once roused Wiarton to organized 
action; here at last was some positive clue on which to work. 
Already Wiarton had seen her duty clearly, for both Captain Port 
and the ship belonged to the town. Because of the loss of a week 
in enforced waiting a systematic search for the lost vessel was 
more arduous than it would have been at first, since by now the 
bitter cold and the distressing uncertainties of December weather 
had to be faced. But though every citizen realized keenly the 
difficulties and dangers there was no hesitation. A volunteer party 
under the leadership of an old settler, William Bull, put out on 
the tug Tommy Wright. Every man on board knew well all the 
bays, inlets, islands, and reefs of Colpoy's Bay. Equipped with 
every device needed in their quest grappling hooks, sounding 
lines, ropes they made straight east for Spencer's Landing. 

Starting from the Landing they dragged for several long, 
tedious hours without finding a trace of a ship. Many depth 

The Eighties Take Their Toll 55 

soundings were taken. Everywhere the water was deep; only a 
few hundred yards off the Landing the lead showed thirty 
fathoms. At White Cloud Island the elder McGregor joined Bull's 
party and guided them to the spot where he and his son had seen 
the bubbles, a spot just half a mile northeast of Spencer's, and, it 
was now manifest, exactly southeast of the cove on White Cloud 
Island where the McGregors came upon the sailors' caps and the 
fragments of wreckage. Of greatest significance, however, was 
this crucial fact: the line drawn between the tract of seething 
water and the cove coincided precisely with the southeast-north- 
west path of the gale on the night on which the Jane Miller 
disappeared into the darkness. If the bubbles marked her resting 
place, then any relics of her that might chance to float free could 
not escape being thrown up in the tiny island cove. 

The logic of it all was simple; so was William Bull's report. 
"The Jane Miller' 9 he concluded, "lay on the bottom in two 
hundred feet of water, within the radius of a quarter of a mile 
of the place indicated by McGregor as the probable scene of the 
disaster. This is about the place where Mr. Cameron would have 
seen her on her way up the Bay/' It may be that the Jane Miller 
sank in the very next "twinkling of an eye" after Mr. Cameron's 
last glimpse of her! Even a calamity severe enough to shake the 
world may take place in the fraction of a second. 

The unflagging search went on. Again and again the Wiarton 
men dragged their grappling irons over the bed of Colpoy's Bay, 
Here, too, diver after diver went down to peer into the dark 
abysses. None of these endeavours had any result. 

In a community torn by the sorrow of calamity a base trait of 
human nature often shows itself. While many citizens were 
putting every effort into the labour of search, others were 
spreading evil rumour. "The Jane Miller was not wrecked," they 
hinted. "Could she not easily have sneaked into some obscure 
harbour on the other side? It would be no trick to sell her cargo 
secretly in such a place. There are plenty of ways for disguising 
vessels changing their names and colour, remodelling their upper 
works, registering them in another country, and so on. Many a 
Canadian vessel has ended her sailing days doing a profitable 
trade under the American flag and a new name." But the crafty 
minds that contrived such innuendoes overlooked one thing: the 
lack of a convincing motive. Indeed, they stupidly ignored two 
facts: the insurance on the Jane Miller was only $6,000, and the 

56 The Bruce Beckons 

owner himself was aboard her when she vanished. The very 
absurdity of the rumour soon killed it, though not before it had 
wounded the hearts of many who had lost close kin in the disaster. 
Not one of the twenty-seven souls who were aboard the steamer 
on her last voyage captain, passengers, crew was ever seen 
again. Not the slightest taint of dishonour now sullies their names. 

Around the coasts of Lake Huron people still talk about the 
mysterious fate of the Jane Miller. In the morning paper of the 
day in which these words were written a whole column was de- 
voted to the tragic story. She passed out of the world of Great 
Lakes ships and sailors as if some great magician had waved her 
out of sight with the stroke of a wand. But though the wonder 
about her will doubtless never cease, there does seem to be a 
sound explanation of her sudden disappearance. That was in- 
herent in the report William Bull made to his fellow-citizens of 
Wiarton a fortnight after the sad event. 

The Jane Miller was both overloaded and top-heavy when she 
set out on her last voyage. At a crucial moment an exceptionally 
violent blast struck her high, wall-like freeboard with such force 
as to roll her clean over as though she were a floating cylinder. 
Wind and driving snow between them had probably sent every 
person on board to take shelter inside behind locked doors or 
below battened hatches. When the ship sank, Captain Port, crew- 
men, and passengers were all penned in like animals in a trap; 
not one of them had a chance to fight for life. Why, then, if the 
McGregors really found the spot where she lay, did no grapnel 
ever bring up any sign of having touched the wreck? Nobody 
who knows the variety of cavernous depths and abysmal hollows 
that are found in the world's great limestone areas can fail to 
guess the answer. The Jane Miller must have slipped into an 
extraordinarily profound underwater chasm that divides that part 
of the Niagara Escarpment in which lies the basin that holds the 
blue waters of Colpoy's Bay. 


Very often, strange indeed are the ways in which names are 
given to ships. But much more strange is it, at least to a landsman, 
that a ship should give a name to a wind. Yet in the latter decades 
of the nineteenth century such instances were far from being un- 
known in the Georgian Bay. The fierce wind of November, 1879, 
which destroyed the decrepit old Waubuno became known as 

The Eighties Take Their Toll 57 

the Waubuno Gale. Similarly, the wind which three Novembers 
later sent the steamer Asia to the bottom and took the lives of all 
but two of her crew and passengers was for years afterward re- 
ferred to as the Asia Gale. So there was sound precedent for the 
Bentley to pass on her name to an exceptional wind in which her 
experience had stood out above the experiences of all other ships 
on the same waters at the time. What was strange about this case 
is that so modest a craft as a mere sailing barge should gain such 
great distinction. 

The Bentley Gale began in the daylight hours of October 15, 
1886. From the first it was a stiff blow, as much as twenty-five 
miles an hour, but because it came overland from the east its 
real strength was not sensed along the Parry Sound waterfront 
nor for a considerable distance out in the Georgian Bay. For 
several hours its gain in speed was so gradual as to seem to be 
under mechanical control. By ten o'clock "it was blowing great 
guns" and without abating its force started veering to the south. 
On it swung past the line of north and south, and point by point 
inched its way into the west. At midnight it had pushed the 
official wind gauge at Parry Sound up to the figure of sixty-six 
miles an hour. Occasional spurts shot the gauge up to a peak of 
seventy-five or eighty. Then of a sudden, as if weary and ashamed 
of causing so much fear, it settled back for a few hours to a 
monotonous though still menacing fifty. 

The next morning between four and five the storm's line of 
direction moved on into the northwest. The attainment of this 
point marked the peak of the wind's strength. Then it began to 
abate, as if some unseen remote control was inverting the order 
of the increase in strength the day before. First it sagged back 
to a moderate thirty-five miles an hour, held at this stage for a 
while, shifted into due north, and from that quarter leisurely 
petered out in a gentle breeze, The Bentley Gale did not last as 
long as the Asia Gale, but what it lacked in duration it made up 
in rampant fury. An Owen Sound citizen once claimed for it this 
unique distinction: "This gale lives in the memory of the old 
residents of the Georgian Bay as a storm without precedent or 

The havoc wrought by the "Bentley" in and around Parry 
Sound alone serves as a yardstick to measure its stupendous force. 
It is common knowledge, even among landsmen, that a strong 
wind blowing steadily across a body of water will raise appreci- 

58 The Bruce Beckons 

ably the level on the shore upon which the wind beats. But 
the "Bentley" was in a class of its own: it broke all records known 
for the region up to that time. At Parry Sound the water was 
seven feet above the high water mark. Apparently, this extreme 
height was attained because nature happened just then to be in 
the mood to add to the powers of the wind the unpredictable 
powers of the so-called lake tide, the seiche. 1 The flooding of the 
eastern shores of the Sound covered the docks, put out the fires 
under sawmill boilers, ripped apart wharves and breakwaters, and 
wrecked numerous pleasure craft anchored in "absolutely safe" 
bays and channels. 

The sailing barge Bentley was owned by Captain W. B. Hall 
of Toronto. She was taking on lumber at the Parry Sound Lumber 
Company's dock when the blow from the east began, and the 
loading had come to an end before the wind reached the pitch of 
a storm. On her deck and in her hold the vessel carried half a 
million feet of lumber. From her point of view the wind while 
strong was "fair"; to make the most of his luck the captain sailed 
her out into the Sound without delay. Under the shelter of the 
high land behind the dock he was unable to perceive just how 
violent the off-shore wind was. Not till he had passed the Red 
Rock lighthouse at the mouth of the Sound and then too late 
did the grim reality burst upon him. The huge following seas, 
travelling faster than the ship, lifted her stern aloft and rolled 
her hull from side to side as if it had been an empty barrel. The 
movement gained momentum, each roll swinging a bit farther 
than the one before, until the ship seemed like a pendulum with- 
out control. The arc through which she was now swaying was so 
great that captain and crew feared the additional push of a 
particularly big wave might turn the ship right over. And the 
fear was far from being groundless. At last a veritable mountain 
of a wave tilted the Bentiey beyond the angle of safety and gave 
her deck the slope of a toboggan slide. In an instant into the 
water slithered the whole deckload, an avalanche of timbers, 
planks, and boards. 

However, the mishap was a boon as well as a loss: it lowered 
the vessel's centre of gravity and gave her a welcome period of 
respite. Taking in sail to a point that would still leave some steer- 
ing power, the captain laid the Bentley s bow plumb on Cabot's 
Head fifty miles due west on the Bruce Peninsula. What was his 

1. See chap. VIII, "The Tides o* Bruce." 

The Eighties Take Their Toll 59 

idea? Is a question still asked by those who know that forbidding 
part of the coast. Although today a storm-caught ship drawing 
as much as fifteen feet can slip through the channel into tranquil 
Wingfield Basin, in those days it was yet as Nature had made it, 
a passage no more than five feet deep at the bar. But the captain 
laid a wager with chance: that the wind would stay in the east 
and let the Bentley sail into the quiet lee behind the lofty North 
Bluff of Cabot's Head. He won. 

In the relative calm of the lee all on board mused gratefully as 
well as a bit proudly upon the experience they had just passed 
through. Never before had a craft of the Bentley *s type raced at 
such a speed across the full breadth of the Georgian Bay. With a 
few yards of sail the old barge had put steam to shame! But no 
one wanted to repeat the passage. Their leisurely musing lasted 
only as long as the wind remained where it was, however. In an 
hour or two it edged over, as though by stealth, from the east 
into the south, into the southwest, into the west and, at last, 
squarely into the northwest. Then trouble, real trouble, began 
again. The nor'wester was beating upon the very waters where 
the Bentley had hoped to ride out the storm. 

With no sea room and no power but that of sail the captain saw 
only one course of action open: to try to hold the barge where 
she was. He had all the anchors cast out to windward. The hold 
they offered was shaky indeed, but there was nothing better. 
Little by little they began to give way. First one anchor dragged, 
the line of another parted, and soon nothing was left even to 
slow down the drift. Sideways, like a log shifted by a canthook, 
the Bentley rolled up on the sharp rocks and coarse shingle of the 

Since this is the story of a wind and not of a ship, its end is not 
yet. True, the Bentley Gale proper came to an end, but it carried 
on into a sequel of other winds which in their turn caused a new 
chain of untoward events. Who has not heard of good money 
being thrown after bad? Some men do it with the lawful tokens of 
exchange; some do it with ships. The Bentley 's owner, learning 
of the ship's sorry fate, sent his namesake, the steam barge W. B. 
Hall, to the scene of the disaster, with the schooner Lady Dufferin 
in tow. To the latter ship was to be transferred what was left of 
the Bentley's underdeck cargo. Thus lightened, it was thought, 
the barge might be floated and towed out to deep water. But she 
turned out to be a total wreckthe mangled skeleton of a ship 

6 Q The Bruce Beckons 

and could not be moved. The remnant of her load was shif ted to 
the Lady Dufferin, which was taken in tow by the Hall in an 
attempt to reach the quiet haven of Tobermory. Again hopes were 
shattered. By the time the ships had made ten miles and were ott 
Halfway Rock Point the wind had risen to a gale and had churned 
up huge seas in the broad channel. The struggle against wuid and 
wave could not last long-it was spun out just long enough for the 
two vessels to make four miles more. When they came opposite 
Driftwood Cove the towline snapped. The Hall steamed oft alone 
to seek safety while the schooner with all hands was left to the 
mercy of the tempest. Without means of navigation she bobbed 
about like a chip in a swirling eddy. The crew could do nothing 
but get ready to act the instant their ship grounded. Then one 
brave fellow among them swam ashore with a rope by means ot 
which all his comrades were drawn to safety. 

The steam barge W. B. Hall had not yet come under the 
"hoodoo" that seemed to pursue her latter years. She managed to 
live through the minor gale that dashed the Lady Dufferin on 
the rocks and for several seasons went about her busmess on her 
old familiar runs. In time, length of days and the ills to which 
busy ships are heir began to weigh heavily on her. Seeing some 
sparks of usefulness still lingering in her James Playfair ot Mid- 
land bought her, put her in the shipyard at Owen Sound, and 
had her rebuilt. About the turn of the century the newspaper 
press told the world that a steamer, the St. Andrew, had gone 
down somewhere in the Great Lakes. That report was in fact, as 
we now know, the public obituary of the steam barge W. B. tiaU, 
one of the last reminders then afloat of the great Bentley Gale. 

Anxiety gripped hundreds of Georgian Bay homes throughout 
the long hours of this great storm. Reports of wrecked craft of all 
sorts and sizes (two vessels, now nameless, went ashore not far 
from the Bentley), of battered wharves and waterside buildings, 
streamed over the wires from all parts of the Georgian Bay. But 
there was no word of loss of life. For days families and friends 
dared not believe that they had been told the full truth. But at 
the end of the week it became certain that they had every reason 
for rejoicing: with all its extraordinary violence and madness the 
great wind had indeed not taken a single human life. Can one 
wonder that the Bentley Gale is famous? 

Chapter 8 


IN 1895 the steam barge Africa was not what she used to be; 
in the social scale of lake steamers of that day she had lost 
caste. Well built in a good shipyard in 1872 as a propeller she 
plied the Lower Lakes with the worthy rank of a carrier of 
passengers. Her length was designed to permit her to pass through 
the St. Lawrence and Welland canals. In the early eighties, along 
with the side-wheelers Magnet and Spartan (the latter of which 
the writer knew on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence), she was 
transferred to Upper Lake routes radiating from Owen Sound. 
One unlucky day while reposing at her dock in this port she was 
swept by a fire that left her little more than a floating trough. 

Courageously the owners refused to count her a total loss. In 
a few months they crowned her scorched remains with bright new 
upperworks, refitted her engines, and sent the remade vessel out 
on the Great Lakes with the lowly status of "steam barge/* 
Though now down in the world of shipping she was still useful 
But few folk in those times were really aware that a patched ship 
is like a patched garment, old, worn, and weak at the seams, and the 
service into which the patched Africa was put was as heavy as any 
that she had undertaken when she was still new. There was one 
difference, however: she now carried goods instead of passengers. 
Long before the nineties it was manifest to many a lake sailor 
that she belonged in the growing class of "coffin-ships." 


The three-masted tow-barge Severn was, like the Africa, also 
of the vintage of the seventies. In 1881 she was one of a line of 
vessels sailing the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, a line consisting 
of three barges of her own type and their towing ship, the steam 
barge Isaac May, which bore the name of the fleet's owner. All 
four bottoms were engaged in carrying lumber, then the most 
active trade of the Upper Lakes. Upon Captain May's death the 


Q2 The Bruce Beckons 

fleet was sold. Like many other owners the purchasers failed to 
realize that the Severn had gone the way of all busy ships and 
had become decrepit and unseaworthy. Fittingly did the chroni- 
cler of her wreck write not long after that sad event: she "ought 
to have been laid peacefully on the bottom of some harbour, after 
having served her day and generation, instead of sailing the 
lakes with valuable cargoes and precious lives." 

The fourth of October, 1895, was a fateful day for the ancient 
Africa and Severn: it marked the beginning of their last voyage. 
Some time during that day the two ships, fully laden with coal, 
left Ashtabula, Ohio (a busy port not many miles west of Erie), 
bound for Owen Sound. It was understood that upon delivery of 
their cargoes there they were to go on to Parry Sound and take 
on lumber. With the Africa towing the Severn the 200-mile trip up 
Lake Erie, the tedious ascent of the Detroit and the Saint Glair, 
and the first stage of the passage up Lake Huron were completed 
uneventfully. Not until the morning of October 7 did anything 
out of the ordinary occur. Some time after the two ships had 
passed the broad mouth of Saginaw Bay and were standing off 
Au Sable Point, which lies about opposite Southampton on the 
Ontario side, a heavy gale from the south suddenly caught them 
astern. In view of the direction in which the ships were headed 
a wind from that quarter was not unwelcome. It did not seem to 
be too strong to make resort to sail unsafe. So the Severn hoisted 
her canvas and the pair scudded northward. 

All went well till the middle of the afternoon when the wind 
freshened and began to shift little by little from the south to the 
southwest and then into the west where the crews prayed it would 
stay. But all wishes were vain, for the wind swung on into the 
northwest. By four o'clock it had settled down in that quarter and 
was raising seas of an alarming height. Both ships were now 
beamwise to the gale, but though floundering heavily in the 
trough of the waves managed to maintain some steering-way. No 
time this for even the slightest mishap! But a mishap did occur, 
and no slight one either: the Severn's foresail was blown out of 
the bolt. Half an hour later the main gaff was broken and in a 
single instant away went the mainsail. But despite the dreadful 
drag not all headway was lost. For two hours longer tow-boat 
and tow ploughed on with their bows pointed on the opening to 
the straits between Cove Island and Manitoulin. The former was 
now not far off. If only the strength of men and of ships would 

West Side, East Side 63 

hold out a little longer, in the lee of Cove Island they could count 
on safety. 

But about half -past six all hopeful reckoning ended abruptly 
when the captain of the Africa became convinced of the futility 
of trying to keep two vessels moving in such seas. So regretfully 
he cast the towline over the stem and left the unpowered Severn 
to her own devices. Through the irony of a fate that often pursues 
seafarers, the barge's captain, James Silversides, was now forced 
to repeat a harrowing experience that had been seared on his 
memory not so long since a long, perilous drift in the helpless 
barge, Victor, over the raging waters of the open lake. Now again, 
against all prospects of coming through alive, he had to shift for 
himself and battle for his own life and the lives of his crew. 

In reading the story now one's first impulse is to blame Captain 
Larsen of the Africa for losing his head and for reckless action 
that exposed others to certain death. But in such a case a fireside 
reader has little right to judge. The very person who was most 
gravely affected by the action took a kindlier view. Later, in 
giving his account of the disaster, Captain Silversides freed his 
colleague from censure on this and other minor points. The 
Africa's hull, he maintained, had become so weakened under the 
excessive strain of many hours that it was making water fast and 
was in extreme danger of foundering at any moment. It was 
criminal folly for a vessel almost a wreck herself to attempt to 
tow to safety another vessel in like condition. To cut the Severn 
adrift was a proof of Larsen's seamanship. Since it was just at 
dusk that the two ships parted company the crew of the barge 
were perforce too busy with their own imperative duties to be 
free to give more than an occasional thought to the Africa. Their 
last blurred glimpses of her were to them proof enough that 
Captain Larsen was sparing no effort to force his ship forward 
to shelter. After these few fitful views the Africa was never seen 
again. Where did she go down? How long did she ride the gale? 
Did she carry her crew down with her? Or did they take to the 
lifeboats and perish in them? No one knows. Of the crew of 
twelve not one escaped to tell the tale. Only two relics of the 
Africa ever came to light: a lifeboat and a bundle of letters be- 
longing to the stewardess-cook were picked up on the shore of 
Manitoulin Island. 

One concern possessed the captain and crew of the Severn 
the dual one of saving their lives and then, if possible, their ship. 

64 The Bruce Beckons 

With the utmost thrift of time and energy they aimed every effort 
toward that end. To give the ship at least a little headway Silver- 
sides had the crew set the staysail and mizzensail. Only two 
possible shelters were open, and both of these to the east: the 
well-charted channel into Stokes Bay, a passage lying off the big 
lighthouse on the north end of Lyal Island; or, sk miles up lake, 
one or other of the narrow, reef-bounded channels leading into 
the shallow, dubious haven of Boat Coves. Officially known in the 
Great Lakes Pilot as Bradley's Harbour, it is described as a "foul 
bay fit only for small tugs and boats." Its entrance is hedged about 
by jagged rocks and half-submerged reefs. Captain Silversides 
knew that in normal weather he could easily hit the opening 
squarely and that the Severn's draft would carry her through 
the passage. Of the two possibilities Boat Coves was the nearer. 
Thus the Captain's mind was made up for him, and the barge 
was headed forthwith for Boat Coves. 

By now her hull was filling very fast. Hope of escape from 
foundering rested solely upon the strength of the steam pump; 
this was worked without an instant's lull. But merely to remain 
afloat was not enough. The greatest reason for alarm was that 
the ship was now barely steering, since her spread of canvas was 
too scant to drive her ahead at more than a snail's pace. At last 
she lost all forward motion. By now not a soul on board had any 
doubts as to the gravity of the situation; the end was near if not 
right at hand. In the last hope that by slowing down the vessel's 
drift she might hold together till daybreak, the crew cast out all 
the anchors. But one by one their lines parted, and the Severn 
soon afterward, almost on the stroke of ten, crashed on a reef 
half a mile from shore. At once the seas mounting to great heights 
on the shoals that lie roundabout washed right over the ship, and, 
pouring into the hold, put out the fires beneath the boilers of the 
pump and the hoist engine. To avoid being swept overboard the 
crew fled to the rigging. 

Aloft, in the lashing wind, the men nearly perished from the 
bitter cold. Since the Severn had ridden the reef bow on, it was 
her stern that had to take the brunt of the waves' pounding as 
they rushed in from the open lake. In a few minutes it was broken 
into fragments. Soon the water, dashing in cataracts down the 
sloping deck, ripped off the hatches. The crew, chilled to the 
marrow, each watching his chances, one by one slipped into the 
hold. There with bits of wood from the cabin they kindled a 

West Side, East Side 65 

fire on die coal of the cargo and prepared a small meal of sodden 
bread and hot coffee. 

But still more welcome was dawn. Soon after seven o'clock the 
crew were seen from shore by Steve Bradley and a companion. 
At the risk of their lives the two launched a rowboat and after 
valiant efforts finally brought to land all twelve men of the 
doomed Severn. They gave them shelter in a log shanty until 
seas and skies made it possible to sail them into Stokes Bay village. 
The distance inland from the shore to the north-south road was 
only four miles but that was too great for utterly exhausted men 
to attempt to traverse on foot. Besides, the intervening area, lying 
in the broad, swampy valley of Spring Creek (locally known, for 
the best of reasons, as Rattlesnake Creek) was then pathless for 
the first two miles. 

For Bradley and his companion a writer of fifty years ago had 
high praise: "The act of these two men was a daring one/* he said, 
"and worthy of the Royal Humane Society's medal." Since this 
eulogy was written facts have come out that were unknown to 
its author. There is grave reason to believe that Bradley just 
missed being a hero. For the food and drink consumed by the 
rescued band he demanded payment. Worse still, to make sure 
that he got it he forced Captain Silversides to give up his watch 
as security. That was the story the good captain told John 
MacKay, the keeper of the lighthouse on Lyal Island at the 
entrance to Stokes Bay; not very long ago MacKay 's son, Neil, 
told it to me. 

Steve Bradley, 1 though long since dead, is not forgotten. While 
the scene of the rescue is commonly called Boat Coves, yet in the 
Canadian government's volume, Great Lakes Pilot., for Lake 
Huron and the Georgian Bay, it has for years borne the name 
of Bradley's Harbour. Did this designation just happen? If so, 
chance was not wholly mistaken. 


"The Manitoulin on her way to the scrap heap." Crisp as a 
headline this dispatch, fresh from a well-known port of the Upper 
Lakes, appeared recently in the daily press. In the minds of men 
who have been conversant with Great Lakes ships and shipping 
of the last sixty years it wakened many memories. What these 
memories actually were will come as a surprise to many. They 

1. See chap. XI, "The Serpent in the Garden." 

66 The Bruce Beckons 

related not to the long line of Manitoulins that reaches back to 
the first of the name in 1880, but rather to the name originally 
borne long ago by this the last Manitoulin. It is as the Modjeska 
that she will more readily be recognized, the stately Modjeska 
which with her somewhat older sister-ship, the Macassa, for many 
years sailed the day route between Toronto and Hamilton on 
Lake Ontario. 

When the horn of the motor car sounded the knell of steamer 
traffic over this short run, both ships, still apparently sound of 
hull and fully seaworthy, were taken to Owen Sound to work 
out of that port in the Georgian Bay and the northern part of 
Lake Huron. Naturally enough, they were christened afresh, not 
to cloak sinister reputations but to bedeck them with names that 
helped blend them into their new scene of service in the ancient 
Indian country and its waters. In that change the Macassa became 
Manasoo. Into the space afforded by her length of 160 feet and a 
rather narrow beam her owners managed to squeeze enough 
cabins and staterooms for seventy passengers. She was equipped 
to handle freight also. In April of 1928 she became an active 
member of the fleet operated by the Owen Sound Transportation 
Company on the route serving Owen Sound, Manitoulin Island, 
Sault Ste Marie, and Mackinac. 

Early in September of this same year the Manasoo had already 
concluded her regular schedule for the season, which had been 
a very profitable one. Thus left free to take special commissions 
she made a trip to West Bay a village on a deep indentation in 
the north shore of Manitoulin Island west of Little Currentto 
take on a load of cattle. On September 14 with her live cargo she 
left the Island bound for Owen Sound. In the early hours of the 
next morning she ran into very heavy weather while making her 
way southward across Georgian Bay. Nevertheless she was making 
positive headway, and nobody saw the slightest reason for appre- 
hension. Sailing through the kind of gale that was blowing was 
a mere commonplace for the captain and his experienced crew. 
From the lights on the Peninsula they knew that they had passed 
Cape Croker and probably Hay Island as well. Soon they would 
be off Griffith Island, the outermost of the three islands lying 
athwart the entrance into Colpoy's Bay, and would then be no 
more than twenty miles from port. 

But when the Manasoo came abreast of the big island and was 

West Side, East Side 67 

riding about a mile off its shore a strange, violent tremor shook her 
whole frame. In all their days afloat neither master nor crew had 
ever felt its like before. Unsuspecting confidence in an instant 
gave way to acute alarm. The decks seemed to sag underfoot. 
Captain John McKay thrust away the thought that the ship might 
be sinking and sent Mate Oswald Long below to see what was 
wrong. Before Long could descend far he saw that the Manasoo 
was doomed. A veritable river was streaming into the hull, a 
deluge that no human power could halt. Long's report was never 
made, for already the ship was dropping like a sounding lead 
toward the bottom of the Bay. 

All hope was now pinned upon the lifeboats and the raft. So 
brief was the moment when the main deck was level with the 
water, that it was scarcely perceptible. Yet in that flash of time 
the crew succeeded in pushing off into the waves two boats and 
the raft. As these floated off only a couple of the men were able 
to scramble aboard; all the others had to leap into the raging 
waters and take chances on joining their comrades on either raft 
or boats. 

Day broke three hours after the Manasoo went down. The 
survivors on the raft scanned the waters all about them. They 
were filled with dismay: they were adrift on the broad, open 
expanse of the great Bay and were being rapidly carried eastward 
by the powerful westerly gale. In the offing, and drifting in the 
same direction, an overturned lifeboat was bobbing on the heav- 
ing seas; two men were clinging desperately to it. For a few 
moments the boat would be lost to sight as it sank into a trough; 
then for the same brief interval it would reappear riding on the 
foam of a breaking crest. When the men on the raft saw it for 
the last time only one man was left on the upturned keel. 

The Manasoo sank in the early hours of a Saturday morning. 
Not until the afternoon of the following Monday was the raft 
sighted. By that time only six human forms were aboard it, and 
one of these was a corpse; Chief Engineer Thomas McCutcheon 
had died from exposure. Among the five who were still alive were 
Captain John McKay and Arthur Middlebro, of Owen Sound. 
When sighted by Captain Davis of the Canadian Pacific steamship 
Manitoba, the raft was in the middle of the broadest tract of the 
Georgian Bay, about halfway between VaiTs Point, about twenty 
miles north of Meaford, and Hope Island which lies north of 

68 The Bruce Beckons 

Christian Island. Through sheer good luck the wind had borne it 
almost squarely across the course of the Manitoba outbound from 
Port McNicoll. 

The delay of an hour or two in the Manasoos arrival at Owen 
Sound caused little comment, for it was clear to everybody that 
the strong blow outside would slow down navigation. But when 
all Saturday went by and no word had come in about the belated 
vessel, anxiety gripped her owners and the people of the town. 
With the silence of all Sunday and the greater part of Monday, 
anxiety became despair. About three o'clock on the Monday after- 
noon the first syllable of news was flashed in by radio: Captain 
Davis of the Manitoba reported that he had rescued Captain 
McKay and four others from the raft and would land them in 
Owen Sound in three hours. He also relayed Captain McKay's 
request that a search be started at once for the two lifeboats and 
any members of the crew who might have been able to make 

The response to the appeal was prompt and generous. Many 
square miles of waters and coast were scrutinized by the sharp 
eyes of sailors and airmen. Tugs and launches from Owen Sound, 
Wiarton, and other places scoured the shores, while the task of 
scanning the open waters was left to aeroplanes from Camp 
Borden and to the Manitoulin. No quest devoted to the saving of 
human lives was in these parts ever carried out more unselfishly 
and more faithfully. To the deep regret of all who were engaged 
in it not another survivor of the disaster was found. 

Of course, a public inquiry into the sad affair was held in due 
time. Every scrap of fact, every promising hint that might satis- 
factorily account for the accident, was examined. Of the host of 
possible causes considered three seemed to be better supported 
by probability than all the others. Either a steel plate of the 
Manasoo's hull had suddenly given way before the ceaseless 
pounding of the seas; or the stern windward gangway had been 
instantly crushed in by a wave carrying the momentum of a 
battering ram; or a violent lurch of the vessel to leeward had 
hurled the cattle on board out of their stalls in a solid mass and 
thus given the craft a terrific list far beyond the margin of safety. 
Of the three possibilities it was agreed that the third was the most 
valid. But whatever the truth, even the most judicious minds felt 
certain that the cause could not have been foreseen: it struck 
with the suddenness of a bolt of lightning, and in a fraction of a 

West Side, East Side 69 

second released a flood into the hull which an array, posted for 
that specific emergency, would have been powerless to dam back. 

It was with the obituary not of the Manasoo but of her sister, 
the Manitoulin, that we began this story. Yet as we mused upon 
it our thoughts were really upon the Manasoo. No, the Macassa. 
Never could we get used to the new name. In the waters that still 
ripple and sparkle in our memory the Macassa is even yet afloat, 
an industrious, graceful craft which made it possible for countless 
city-dwellers to enjoy the tonic of fresh air and sunlight that 
brood over the open lake. 

From the relish of this pleasant memory we must turn with 
regret to the grimness of a tragic reality. It is indeed cause for 
sorrow that the ship whose chief service long had been to give 
wholesome pleasure ended her career in an experience that also 
meant the end of nearly a score of her faithful sailors, Dramatically 
the Macassa disappeared to join the Jane Millet, the Waubuno, 
and a veritable fleet of other unlucky ships that had gone before. 

And there, unmarked of any chart, 
In unrecorded deeps they lie, 
Empearled within the purple heart 
Of the great sea for aye and aye. 1 


1. From "The Piper of Aril/* in Selected Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott, ed. 
E. K. Brown (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1951), p. 50. 

Chapter 7 



:HAT the Fishing Islands, on the west of the Peninsula, 
like White Cloud and others on the east, have mysteries of 
their own is the most natural thing under the sun. Their 
very fabric, the perils of dubious shoals and channels that beset 
them, give manifold reasons for wonder. It is hard to find a likelier 
place for the brooding and hatching of folklore. Long before the 
white man came these islands were the scene of wreck and death 
to Indian wayfarers in the great Freshwater Sea. It was with fear 
and trembling that even the boldest of the early white adventurers 
paddled or sailed in these waters. Gother Mann noted that even 
before 1788 several of those who had essayed to round the Penin- 
sula had lost their lives. Undoubtedly some of them perished 
among the Fishing Islands, adding the unsightly remains of their 
bodies and craft to those already scattered along the rocky shores. 
When the first permanent settlers came in the 1850's, they 
found there enough of the grim and the gruesome to provoke 
fancy to begin weaving a tissue of ghastly tales. Again and 
again these were retold around driftwood fires on summer beaches 
as ghost stories are told before the flames of winter hearths. But 
their telling was more than merely a way of passing the time: it 
was a manner of reminding fisherman, sailor, and camper that 
this rugged chain of islands and the nearby mainland bristled 
with perils. Over the years it has trained a succession of careful 

When Alexander McGregor made Main Station Island his 
headquarters, he found skeletons strewn here and there on its 
shores, the remains of Indians bleached by the suns and surf of 
centuries. His frequent comment upon this experience was passed 
on by word of mouth from man to man until, embroidered by the 
imagination of each successive raconteur, it became a sort of local 

In the fifties something happened that added another chapter 


Folklore of the Fishing Islands 71 

to the Island's docket of creepy tales. Whatever it was in fact it 
was akin to that nebulous order of unverified events which fire 
the uncritical fancy of lonely frontier folk into a frenzy of surmises 
that fly from cabin to cabin across the wilderness like sparks over 
the summer-dry forest. Nothing can check the spread of this 
flame of gossip; in a few weeks it is accepted as gospel truth. In 
this particular tale there seems to have been at least one kernel of 
fact. Apparently, some of the colony of fishermen on Main Station 
Island had been unfair in their dealings with the Ojibway Indians 
on the mainland. Not unnaturally, the Indians seem to have given 
vent to their anger in the form of hasty though futile threats to 
get even. Here was a theme ready-made for the mind that revels 
in inventing startling fables out of drab commonplaces. The 
romancer in this case he or she, I refrain from saying, though 
there is reason for suspecting some definite person declared with 
the positiveness of a news broadcaster that the Indians carried 
out their threats in their race's ancient way of wreaking vengeance, 
by raiding the habitations of those who had wronged them. The 
affair, says the fable, was like the bloody massacres on the 
frontiers of New France and New England; all the whites, except 
two, were killed; these, both children Hiram Cole and his sister 
saved themselves by hiding in a cave at the north end of the 
Island. To this day a certain hollow under a limestone ledge is 
known as the Children's Cave. 

The way of the "debunker" is hard; yet I cannot but take it. 
The germ of reality in this thrilling camp-fire story is very small 
and is far from clear; in the fifties some rather violent domestic 
upheaval, affecting several families, took place in the fishing 
colony on Main Station Island; whatever it was it suddenly and 
mysteriously made orphans of two children of one family, children 
who grew up to be citizens of the Bruce Peninsula and later were 
known to a number of people of the region. But that event, one 
must state as positively as one can, was not an Indian massacre: 
the Ojibways of the Saugeen Peninsula have always shown them- 
selves to be lovers of peace and respecters of human life. 

A score of years after the mythical massacre Main Station Island 
came back into the news. This time it was one of the scenes of 
action in the Mercer murder case, a case which gained a great 
deal of notoriety at the time. Even the passage of three-quarters 
of a century has not wholly blotted out the memory of this 

72 The Bruce Beckons 

The power exerted on the mind of man by tales of mystery, 
violence, and death is brought out most vividly by the fact that 
they can quickly erase long-established names and bestow new 
ones. Early in the white man's association with the Fishing Islands 
the presence of a group of tall basswood trees on one island fixed 
on that area of rock the name Basswood Island. But fifty years 
later that designation disappeared from popular use and was re- 
tained only in the written records. Shortly after the turn of the 
century a party of campers found the body of a man jammed into 
a gaping fissure on the island's shelving shore: Deadman's Island 
it has been ever since. 

A few years later the corpse of an unknown was washed ashore 
one spring on Beament's Island. We say "unknown" despite the 
fact that several persons maintained they knew it to be the 
remains of a Southampton fisherman who had been drowned the 
summer before. But, since they could not prove they were right, 
a veil of mystery fell upon Beament's that time has not yet lifted. 

At no time in its history has this cluster of islands been wholly 
clear of the disquieting shadow of uncertainties and unsolved 
problems. Those who reside among them or near them never know 
when a sudden deluge of trouble may break before their eyes. 
The memorable cyclonic storm of Sunday, November 9, 1913, 
brought them one of the most harrowing sights of all. It must have 
been in the open lake right opposite the islands that two of the 
many lost ships went down. And great ships these were: the Isaac 
M. Scott, of 9000 tons and 524 feet in length, and the Hydrus, of 
7000 tons and 436 feet. Ghastly relics of these steamers and their 
crews were found scattered along the coasts of the islands and 
the mainland from French Bay north to Pike Bay. Main Station 
Island alone was given more than its share: the body of a Swedish 
deck-hand, a life preserver and a lifeboat of the Isaac Scott, as 
well as the engines of the Hydrus. At French Bay the body of the 
Isaac Scoffs captain was thrown up on the sand, and on Chiefs 
Point was found the body of an unknown. Red Bay yielded two 
bodies. At Preacher's Point was found the corpse of a deck-hand 
the content of whose pockets mutely told a story of a wasted life: 
fifty cents in coin, a packet of obscene cards, a letter from a 
mother in Cleveland whose heart was being broken by wondering 
why her son was not writing home. 

Even so substantial a ruin as the stone-built headquarters of 

Folklore of the Fishing Islands 73 

McGregor's fishery on Main Station Island 1 is the subject of pure 
guessing so spun out as to merit being called a legend. The 
ordinary wayfarer in the district, unversed in the few known facts 
of its history, and with the common man's blind reverence for the 
remote past, accepts as the real truth about the old building the 
story that pushes its origin farthest back in time. Today the ruin is 
commonly called "The Fort" a term that smacks richly of anti- 
quity. In support of the view that the nucleus of the building may 
be of French origin some old-timers point to Baron de Lahontan's 
general map of Canada. Across the northwest corner of the space 
representing all Huronia and the Bruce Peninsula are written the 
words "Fort Supose" (sic). What the label means the chatty 
Baron himself tells us in his book. Fort Suppose, as the name 
should be written, is the purely imaginary fortified outpost, or 
"little Castle," which about 1690-1 the Baron recommended to 
Frontenac should be set up on "the South side of the Bay of 
Toronto [Georgian Bay]" and "at the Mouth" of that bay. Prob- 
ably he had in mind a defensible site somewhere near the present 
Tobermory. Even if this "little Castle" had been built Main Station 
Island as the scene of it must, for a very obvious reason, be ruled 
out: it is too far south, down open Lake Huron, of the "Mouth of 
the Bay of Toronto' 9 But folklore is a stubborn thing; certain 
minds forced to give up their belief that "The Fort" was originally 
French hold it to be a relic of the early days of the Hudson's Bay 
Company. But when all this wishful surmising is over, one fact 
stands out, at least for me: Captain Murray McGregor long ago 
told Norman Robertson, the author of the History of the County 
of Bruce, that his father, Alexander McGregor, began and finished 
the building; and that word Norman Robertson reported to me 
in his own home thirty years ago. 

And in no niggardly mood did McGregor and his men build. 
With a quarry hard by they gave their walls the generous thick- 
ness one sees in frontier fortresses. Nor did they spare human 
touches either within or without the walls. In recognition of the 
body's need of comfort they gave an open hearth to each of the 
building's two rooms. Nearby, outside, one can still see shaggy, 
straggling vestiges of their garden of bush-fraits. Still farther off 
is the sad, untidy relic of the resting place they set aside for their 
dead. As one looks upon it, one cannot suppress an uneasy wonder. 

1. See chap. X, "The Great Draughts of Fishes," pp. 112-13. 

74 The Bruce Beckons 

Can the few who were laid away here long ago really rest in 
peace amid all this loneliness? Do their spirits and the spirits of 
the nameless unburied whom wind and surf idly tossed upon the 
island, do these ceaselessly roam about the ruin and the bold en- 
croachments of the returning forest? Some minds given to toying 
with such questions are inclined to attribute to disembodied souls 
the eerie atmosphere that enwraps the whole tract. 

But nothing so quickly hurries the wild flower of fancy to full 
bloom as the, uncanny behaviour of a living man who by choice 
has made the wilderness his home. Of such persons the worst is 
always suspected. One instance of the kind I myself knew in the 
mid-nineties. An unkempt hermit lived in a crumbling log cabin 
in a small clearing on the portage between Lake Muskoka and 
Lake Joseph in the District of Muskoka. He had no neighbours 
nearer than those living at the two ends of the portage trail, and 
these he avoided, as he did portagers also, as much as he possibly 
could. One day a comrade and I, frantic with thirst on the heavy 
three-mile carry from lake to lake, invaded his hovel in search of 
a drink of water. The old man chanced to be in a mood to talk- 
just a little. We got this out of him: his name was Thompson and 
he had studied in Oxford with Gladstone. His neighbours, we 
learned afterward, knew no more than we did. But out of this 
tiny shred of knowledge their ingenuity manufactured an astound- 
ing character for the old fellow. Nothing but a terrible crime could 
have driven a schoolman of his social standing out of England 
into the Canadian wilds. Murder, arson, embezzlement are only a 
few of the offences of which he was guilty. But, of course, of all 
these vain imaginings old Thompson knew nothing. When he died 
a kinsman came from England to settle the petty backwoods 
estate. In one casual word he cleared a name sullied by years of 
idle gossip. Thompson's only crime was that of being jilted at the 
very steps of the altar: a sensitive wounded spirit had gone queer, 
that sail. 

Like Muskoka the Fishing Islands have had their hermit too. 
Here is his story, just as Roy Fleming told it in 1912, 1 

"Wildinan's Island is situated to the south of Bowes' Island. It 
is a small quaint-looking spot having a few tall trees rising out of 
short bushes and undergrowth, and three small buildings which 
serve as a protection for fishermen in the fall of the year. Two of 

1. Roy F. Fleming, Oliphant and Its Islands (Toronto, privately printed, 1912); 
the tale is retold here with Mr. Fleming's permission. 

Folklore of the Fishing Islands 75 

the houses, one of them a landing place for boats, belonged to old 
Larry Bellmore, after whom the island was formerly called, and 
the other one to 'the Wildman' who lived here years ago, and 
whose story is perhaps worthy of being related. 

"Many years ago a man belonging to a Lake Huron hamlet was 
disappointed in love by the woman he had hoped to make his 
wife. And so, deep in sorrow, he fled far away from civilization 
to the Saugeen Islands. There he chose the outermost island of the 
whole group as his home, and found whatever solace he might in 
the roar of the breakers of Lake Huron. He built for himself a 
strange little house of logs and driftwood picked up on the beach, 
and in this he lived for several years protected against storm and 
cold. He had a dugout canoe and an old fishnet he had found, and 
with them he went about amongst the islands, fishing, hunting 
game, and gathering wild fruits. 

"He lived a lonely life, seldom showing himself to anyone, not 
even to the fishermen who sometimes came to fish the waters 
roundabout. His face was sad and careworn, as though he carried 
with him a burden almost too great to bear. When approached he 
would speed away with powerful strokes in his primitive boat, 
and at times when returning in the evening from the pursuit of 
game would give vent to loud weird calls, which would sometimes 
be heard on the mainland. So they called him the Wildman. 

"It happened that in the fall one year at this time, some fisher- 
men were staying on Main Station Island engaged in their regular 
fall fishing. A storm had blown for several days, and one night 
when it had about reached its height, from amidst the sound 
of the breakers and the sighing trees the fishermen thought they 
heard far-off calls for help. They listened, but heard only the 

"In the morning, however, when going through Main Station 
channel, the fishermen found the empty canoe of the Wildman 
swept up on shore; they knew then that what they had heard in 
the storm was the call of the Wildman in distress. No trace of 
the man was ever found, and whether in the storm he had met 
with accident, or, having found his life's burden too heavy to bear 
longer, he had committed himself forever to the sea, can never be 
told. Sometimes, however, in our fancy, in the dusk of evening 
or when the storm rages high, we still hear the call of the Wild- 
man, and see him hurry away in his canoe to his island by the 



Massasauga and Chipmunk 

Chapter 8 


"There is a tide in Pleasant Harbour, which, 
taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" 

"Hold her there a while; shell float out on 
the next tide" 

M.NIFESTLY, this is salt water language! And yet here 
we are listening to it on a little bay of a great freshwater 
>ea. But the parody of Shakespeare is not just a joke. In 
Pleasant Harbour one of the loveliest inlets of Lake Huronyou 
will really find a very marked ebb-and-flow of the waters. And that 
is the same phenomenon that forced the anglers, whose skipper's 
voice we overheard, to tarry a few minutes at the mouth of the 
lagoon in North Boat Cove. It was their ill luck that they had tried 
to make the open lake at slack low "tide," that brief span in the 
ebb-and-flow when the water in the narrow passage was not 
deep enough to float their craft. This rise and fall, though real, is 
not a true tide like that of the oceans. But though the scale of its 
operation is insignificant compared with the height and sweep 
and volume of the tides of Fundy and the English Channel, 
nevertheless it is a great natural phenomenon that is characteristic 
of all the world's large bodies of fresh water. The very fact that 
all who frequent The Bruce, residents and visitors alike, dignify 
this movement of Lake Huron with the name of "tide," shows that 
they regard it as an occurrence of exceptional interest. 

This tide is distinctive enough to be given a name all its own, 
seiche (pronounced saysh), a French word chosen in French- 
speaking Switzerland in 1730 to designate the tidelike action of 
Lake Geneva. One cannot believe that the strange but obvious 
seesaw movements in large freshwater lakes elsewhere in the 
world escaped the notice even of the most primitive peoples. 
However, to the Swiss must go the credit of being the first to 
make an orderly study of them. 

So far as I know the first European to note the phenomenon in 


The Bruce Beckons 

our American Great Lakes was that puzzling though alert person- 
age, the Baron de Lahontan. The powerful shuttling of the 
currents he himself saw in the Straits of Mackinac-and which 
may of course be seen there still today he sets forth clearly in a 
letter written on May 26, 1688, on the Island of Mackinac. 1 What 
the Baron saw was, manifestly, the action of the primary rather 
than the secondary seiche. 

You can scarcely believe, Sir, what vast sholes of white Fish are catch'd 
about the middle of the Channel, between the Continent and the Isle of 
Missilimackinac. The Outaouas and the Hurons could never subsist here, 
without that Fishery. ... In the Channel I now speak of the Currents are 
so strong, that they sometimes suck in the Nets, though they are two or 
three Leagues off. In some seasons, it so falls out that the Currents run 
three days Eastward, two days to the West, one to the South, and four 
Northward; sometimes more and sometimes less. The cause of this diversity 
of Currents could never be fathom'd, for in a calm, they'd run in the space 
of one day to all points of the Compass, i.e. sometimes one way, sometimes 
another, without any limitation of time; so that the decision of this matter 
must be left to the Disciples of Copernicus. . . . 

To avoid becoming entangled in a mesh of scientific terms let 
us at once view the seiche itself. Sail with me into Pleasant 
Harbour. When we have gone about two hundred yards up its 
straight canal-like entrance, let us cast anchor off the rushes at 
our left, and allow our boat to swing freely on her anchor rope. 
Shortly she swings into a position of poise that seems to be a 
balance struck between wind and currents in- the water. There 
she hovers for a while and then begins to yield slowly to a power 
that gently pushes her back towards the point from which she 
started. The arc she has described is virtually that of a semi-circle. 
The time elapsed in making it varies somewhat from day to day. 
On some days I have noted intervals as short as five minutes and 
on others as long as ten. As a rule, however, on any one day, 
except when unusual weather conditions obtain, the interval of 
ebb and flow holds for that day and for any particular inlet as 
faithfully as the pendulum of your clock at home keeps to the 
rhythm ordained for it by the clockmaker. Some wonderful thing 
is happening here. Moreover, it happens every day and at every 
season and in all the countless inlets along that whole shore. The 
ice of winter hides these pulsations but they are beating just the 

1. Letter XIV; see Lahontan s Voyages, ed. Stephen Leacock (Ottawa: Graphic 
Publishers, 1932), pp. 66-7. 

The Tides o 9 Bruce 81 

Every angler who has fished on the Huron side of The Bruce or 
among the Thirty Thousand Islands of the Georgian Bay knows 
what I mean. Many a time he has cursed his inability to get his 
boat to stay close to the pool where he knows the bass are. Though 
it seems easy enough when the wind blows steadily from one 
quarter, the boat in a mulish way persists in swinging back and 
forth, back and forth, in that monotonous half-circle. When the 
boat points lakeward the fishing lines slant inland; when she 
points inland the lines slant lakeward, in either case just where 
the fish are not It maddens even the most patient of anglers to 
realize at last that the inexorable oscillations go on for hours and 
hours on end. If, however, he has any curiosity and will open up 
his mind just a bit, he will see an interesting instance of cause 
and effect. A strong current of water pressing landward from the 
immense expanse of Lake Huron is opposed by a powerful cur- 
rent hastening to return to the lake. First one current prevails and 
then the other, and so on in an endless and uniform seesaw. For 
any fisherman who knows the ways of the ocean it is second nature 
to call this everlasting inflow and outflow, this ceaseless surge and 
ebb, a tide. 

Do you still doubt that what you have just been witnessing is 
one of Nature's wonders? If so, I can show something more 
spectacular near at hand. Let us pole the boat to the very head 
of the channel in Pleasant Harbour, another two hundred yards, 
perhaps. Straight over the bow we see the channel sharply narrow 
to a width of a few feet and become very shallow not more than 
a foot in depth. Beyond this neck it broadens into a pool a hundred 
feet long and several feet in depth. Observe the neck closely: a 
strong stream of water is flowing through it landwards with the 
rush and stir of a small river. Even as we gaze at it, the current 
little by little slows down and w. 'akens, comes to a dead standstill, 
and gradually starts running out toward the lake until at length it 
is as swift and boisterous as it was when it was coursing in. Here, 
as at our first anchorage, the flow has reversed itself and would 
go on thus, it seems, forever. In this little strait the action is more 
pronounced than in the broader waters farther out because the 
volume piles up in the narrow passage faster than it can get 
through to the pool beyond. On its own minute scale is it not 
another Fundy? 

But what has all this to do with our parody? In his own face- 
tious way its author was stating a fact. Any fly-fisherman who 

$2 The Bruce Beckons 

reads this will, through a sixth sense that comes from casting in 
many waters, guess at once what it is. In early summer the part 
of the pool that lies just above the foaming narrows abounds in 
bass. They gather here to refresh themselves in the well-aerated 
waters of the reversing rapids. As the current surges in or out they 
are keenly alert and will seize a wet fly with a fury that gives fly- 
fishing its superior zest and fascination. But at dead slack of low 
seiche or high seiche the bass are as inert as the stones among 
which they lurk. So in that charming corner of Pleasant Harbour 
there is really a tide which taken at the flood leads the angler on 
to the good fortune of a well-filled creel. 

Now that we have seen the seiche at work it is easy to under- 
stand what the scientists have to say about it. The first Swiss 
observers noticed that in Lake Geneva there were temporary but 
rhythmical changes of level that were different from waves. In 
fact, there were two of these, a primary one with a long rhythm 
running parallel to the long axis of the lake, and a secondary one 
of shorter rhythm running across the lake. The water rose and fell 
alternately, leaving on the shore a ribbon of moisture perhaps 
two or three inches wide which marked the difference between 
the high level and the low level of the surface pulsations. In my 
student days at the University of Geneva nearly fifty years ago I 
frequently watched the seiche at work. Its obvious regularity both 
fascinated and mystified me. When la bise, the raw northeast 
wind of winter, blew down the lake towards its outlet in the city 
of Geneva, it hoisted the level of the water at that end. Con- 
versely, the southwest wind driving up the deep, narrow gorge 
of the Rhone forced the water up lake toward the castle of Chillon. 
But in wind and calm alike the surface of the lake kept on rising 
and falling in a leisurely but steady rhythm of its own. Meanwhile 
a transverse oscillation of much shorter intervals was also working, 
swinging southward from the Swiss shore and then back again to 
the north. The movement is ceaseless and ever will be until the 
contours of the Alps are utterly changed or the winds of central 
Europe are funnelled into new courses. 

What can be seen on a small scale in Geneva may be seen on 
a large scale in Lake Huron. It is very easy there to sense the 
force of the primary seiche, the powerful current that operates 
north and south between Point Edward and the islands of the 
North Shore. Anchor a boat a quarter of a mile off Kettle Point, 
or Grand Bend, or Goderich, or Southampton, it matters not 

The Tides d Bruce 83 

which, and throw out a line with a heavy lead. The power that 
immediately drags line and weight up lake or down lake, as the 
case may be, is the primary seiche whose rhythm is long, slow, 
and ponderous. Hours may elapse before it reverses its direction 
even days. You will have the same experience in the open 
waters of the Georgian Bay off Pointe au Baril, or in Lake Erie 
anywhere off shore. 

All the time you have been watching the effects of the primary 
seiche in the open expanse of Lake Huron, the secondary seiche, 
or "tide," with its short, quick vibrations has been playing like a 
tireless shuttle along the deeply indented shoreline, now west- 
ward, now eastward. Out in die lake the movements are too 
slight for the eye to catch, but when they reach the mouths of 
the rivers or the many shallow basins amongst the coastal shoals 
they thrust themselves upon the notice. At Goderich they make 
the Maitland actually flow backward periodically. When once 
this seiche has pierced the gaps in the rocky coast of The Bruce 
the waters fork out in every direction and like a hundred hydras 
each with a hundred heads grope amid the maze of tiny channels 
to find which of them offer passage inland. Such was, and is, the 
"tide" at Pleasant Harbour and in myriad other narrow coves like 
it. The water from the lake chokes the constricted openings and, 
mounting up outside, from its higher level spills inward with all 
the stir and gurgling of a river dashing down a slope. 

Who does not know that moving waters anywhere, either salt 
or fresh, profoundly affect the fortunes of men who go a-fishing 
whether for play or for a living? Ocean liners, battleships, yachts, 
cargo boats, barges, dinghies, gas-boats, dories, canoes, all alike, 
great or small, on the scale suited to each, move as the waters 
will that they shall The majestic Queen Elizabeth either casts or 
weighs anchor at the behest of a modest tide. Our Lake Huron 
seiche is also a bit of a despot. At times, she says when and 
whither an angler may or may not go with his craft for his daily 
fishing; and when the wind is in league with her she speaks with 
an even sharper finality. Some angler may recall Gravel Harbour 
during the lowest stage of the low-water cycle in the Great Lakes 
Gravel Harbour, the best bass pool between Stokes Bay and 
Cape Hurd. Do you remember how rarely during those impatient 
years you could get a large gas-boat into its sheltered basin? For 
that keen disappointment you must in part blame the seiche as 
well as the cycle of low levels. 

84 The Bruce Beckons 

An insignificant, tiny, harmless thing, this seiche, it would seem 
a motion as slight as the swaying of grass in the wind or the 
twitching of an aspen leaf. But again and again has the world 
suffered sorely from being blind to powers hidden in small 
things. If the seiche is Harmless why do those who sail the Great 
Lakes or dwell upon their shores fear it? Why do governments 
make it their business to know its ways? The plain truth is that 
the seiche is as formidable a menace on the water to life and 
property as is forest fire on the land. Read what a department of 
government 1 has to say: in its very nature such a statement must 
be a model of sobriety, no fiction of an amateur. First it describes 
the character of the seiche and then presents a striking illustration 
of the phenomenon still vivid in the memory of many Lake Huron 

The lake surface is never at rest, even during the calmest of weather, and 
large scale sensitive recording gauges register continuous irregular oscil- 
lations referred to as "seiches." The barometric pressure may be constant in 
the vicinity of a recording station, while an area or areas of lower or higher 
pressure may be passing or prevailing over distant sections and thus affecting 
the whole surface of the lake. The range and time interval of the seiches 
vary, being governed by the configuration of the shoreline and offshore 
depths; thus at the apex of a bay, with a wide mouth, the seiche range will 
be greater than at the entrance, the reverse being observed in large bays 
with restricted entrances, the seiche range then being greater at the nar- 
rowest section. Generally speaking, a pronounced increase in the normal 
seiche range precedes a storm approaching from offshore. The wind con- 
tributes a second irregular action by forcing the surface water to pile onto 
the lee shore faster than the undercurrents can return the volume to wind- 
ward. . . . 

On July 16, 1931, starting at 4.30 a.m., a major seiche, or oscillation, of 
the water level was recorded by the self-registering gauge located at the 
downstream end of the Northern Navigation Company's wharves, in the 
St. Glair river at Point Edward, Ontario. The seiches were without doubt 
due to areas of sharp variation in barometric pressure, over the lower end 
of Lake Huron, preceding a violent wind and electric storm which passed 
over the vicinity of the St. Glair river during the following night. The water 
level first rose 18M inches in thirty minutes then receded 46 inches in one 
hour and forty-five minutes, followed by a rise of 36 inches in forty-two 
minutes. The main seiche was followed by three undulations of 18-inch 
average range at intervals of about three hours from crest to crest or from 
trough to trough. The oscillations then reduced to a range of about 6 
inches, with intervals of two to three hours between crests, until 8 p.m. 
July 17. The range then again increased to an average of 12 inches till 

1. Canadian Hydrographic Service, Great Lakes Pilot, vol. II: Lake Huron and 
Georgian Bay ( 1948 ed.), pp. xxviii-xxix. 

The Tides o Bruce 85 

about 8 a.m. July 18, after which the actions gradually reduced to the 
normal irregular range of a few inches, peculiar to this location. During the 
two days of July 16 and 17, the wind at Point Edward and Goderich was 
reported as light south, and at Port Lambton, twenty-five miles down- 
stream, the weather was reported as calm on both days. The rise and fall 
of water level carried down the St. Clair river taking approximately one 
hour and six minutes for each high or low seiche to cover the twenty-five 
miles to Port Lambton. During 'the period of travel the range of the major 
seiche was reduced from the 46 inches to 16 inches, or a ratio of approxi- 
mately 3 to 1. 

A very violent seiche took place on Lake Erie on September 25, 
1764. A certain Captain Thomas Morris, of His Majesty's 17th 
Regiment of Infantry, recorded the event in his journal 1 Captain 
Morris, it seems, was instrumental in causing General Bradstreet's 
army to retreat in haste down the Sandusky River where un- 
friendly Indians had laid an ambush for the troops. "This army 
suffered extremely afterwards," he notes, "and great numbers were 
lost in traversing the desert, many of their boats having in the 
night been dashed to pieces against the shore, while the soldiers 
were in their tents. The boats were unfortunately too large to be 
drawn out of the water. The sentinels gave the alarm on finding 
the sudden swell of the lake, but after infinite labour, from the 
loss of boats, a large body of men were obliged to attempt to 
reach Fort Niagara by land, many of whom perished. It is worthy 
of remark, that, during this violent swell of the waters, soldiers 
stood on the shore with lighted candles, not a breath of wind 
being perceived. . . ." The remark concerning the stillness of the 
air makes it clear that the destruction of the boats was wrought 
by a seiche. 

The seiche sometimes plays unexpected tricks. In Buffalo, New 
York, in 1904, a second seiche in a most curious way completely 
reversed the action of the exceptionally high, strong seiche that 
had preceded it. 

A lumberman named Fritz Riebenach of Alpena, Michigan, bought the old 
steamship Arabia which had been out of commission for some time in 
Buffalo. He looked the boat over very carefully and . . . made a contract to 
buy her "afloat in Buffalo harbor/' He came to Cleveland that night where 
he obtained funds to make the final payment for the ship, after which he 
took the night boat back to Buffalo and on his arrival Aere was amazed 

L For the text of the entry in the journal and for comment upon it we are 
indebted to a note by Dr. E. M. Kindle in the Canadian Field Naturalist, vol. X.LIV, 
1930, pp. 196-7. In vol. XLV, 1931, p. 67, there is additional information on the 
occurrence of seiches in several large bodies of water. 

86 The Bruce Beckons 

to find his boat not "afloat in Buffalo harbor" but upon the dock, about six 
feet above the lake level, and several feet from the edge of the dock. 

This situation was very serious, so Mr. Riebenach took the next train to 
Cleveland and sought the advice and aid of his attorney, Frank Masten. . . . 
After a long conference Mr. Riebenach and Mr. Masten went to Buffalo by 
train. On arrival there they took a cab to the Arabia's position, atop the 
dock, intending to get facts to support legal action for a breach of contract 
in making delivery of the ship. To their surprise they learned that during 
the night another seiche had lifted the ship from her new position on the 
dock, and had set her down in her normal position in the water beside 
the dock, which satisfied the contract terms that she be delivered "afloat 
in Buffalo harbor." 

This was a very happy solution of a complicated situation, caused, and 
later corrected, by the forces of nature. . . .* 

The setting of the stirring action I am now about to describe is 
Tamarac Island in Stokes Bay, site of the Tamarac Club. 2 The 
island is a narrow ridge of limestone rising thirty feet above the 
surrounding water and has a length of half a mile. An excellent 
example of the carving power of ice, it lies with its long axis 
pointing straight into the southwest along the path of the glaciers 
themselves. On its western side and parallel to it extends a shallow 
glacial trough which at its south end broadens out into a spacious 
beaver meadow. Trough and meadow together hold enough water 
to form a large lagoon which, were it not for the regular churning 
of the "tide," would be hopelessly stagnant. Not far from the 
north end of the island the channel that divides it from the main- 
land contracts to a neck of water about fifty feet wide. Here, back 
in the eighties, lumbermen threw across the little strait two long, 
stout pine trunks as stringers to cany the planked floor of a 
bridge strong enough to bear the weight of the most heavily laden 
wagons. In the process of providing each end of the structure 
with an abutment of rough stone the builders narrowed the 
passage to twenty feet. This had the unforeseen effect of amplify- 
ing several times the force of the seiche as it rushed back and forth 
between the lagoon and the bay. Since the channel at this neck 
is at least ten feet deep the volume of water passing through it is 
very great and is as sensitive to the slightest variations of pressure 
as is a thermostat to fine changes in temperature. Its quickness to 
register them is clear to any one who looks into the water from 

1. Benjamin L. Jenks, "Tale of Two Seiches" Inland Seas, vol. I, 1945, pp. 55-6. 

2. The Club was originally a sawmill, and is now unique among the old mills 
of these parts in that, unlike all the others, it has been salvaged from neglect and 
decay and put to salutaiy human uses. See chap. XVIII, "The Mill at Stokes Bay." 

The Tides a Bruce 87 

the bridge. Nowhere else in the Great Lakes have I ever found a 
spot where one can view so convincingly the reality, the constancy, 
and the irresistible power of the secondary seiche of a freshwater 

Now our scrutiny of this eternal flux and reflux is more than 
an academic pastime. It is of practical import to angler and navi- 
gator. Long has the little strait by Tamarac Island been famous 
in this region as a gathering place of the black bass. The constant 
agitation of the current charges the water with oxygen and the 
fish throng there for a breathing spree. The stories of fabulous 
catches made in the narrows by loggers and sawyers of threescore 
years ago are not just reports of actual fact magnified by the 
memories of what might have been. For that, I have the word of 
one who, in later life a bishop, was in those early days a member 
of the timber gangs who cast their angles from the bridge when 
the day's work was over. In his late teens he was in the employ 
of his father, a master lumberman, on Tamarac Island. Many a 
leisure evening did the young man pleasantly spend in whipping 
the reversing waters. At times so richly were his efforts rewarded 
that the good bishop still fears to cite the true figures lest he be 
regarded as just an ordinary fisherman just one of the common 
guild who suffer from chronic inflation of the faculty of calcula- 
tion. Not a word more would he say than this with a convincing 
smile: "The rosiest of the tales of fishing here in the old days are 
all true." He smiled again when I told him that even in these lean 
days of angling the bass still congregate by the bridge. 1 

The day of the Great Tide! And many there are who remember 
it. Two aspects of it stand out in their memory above all others: 
their amazement that a scene of such violence as one usually 
associates with a tempestuous ocean could take place on an inland 
lake; their fears at die thought of the stupendous damage that 
this strange phenomenon, suddenly bursting from the blue, might 
produce. The exact year I cannot recall: it seems to have been 
about fifteen years ago. This at least is clear: it happened in one 
of those few summers when the reef in mid-channel between 
Tamarac and Garden Islands projected above the surface like a 
sharp-peaked cairn. So distinct was it that it was its own danger 
sign to warn strange navigators to give it a wide berth. 

Dawn that day in mid- July brought with it an unwonted languor 

L Bishop John Kidd of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London died in 1950 
soon after this account was written. 

88 The Bruce Beckons 

that became perceptibly heavier as the hours shuffled on. Its 
weight pressed down upon man and beast alike. The clubmen's 
inveterate passion for going a-fishing yielded to a leaden listless- 
ness: no hampers were packed that morning for shore-dinners at 
Pleasant Harbour or Little Pine. Even the lonely club cow and 
a neighbour's horses grazing by the lagoon and the beaver 
meadow showed no zest for the lush marsh grasses. Perhaps the 
peculiar atmosphere drugged our fancy into working overtime, 
but at the time it really did seem that there was less snap in the 
hop of the grasshoppers and in the leap of the frogs in the grassy 
fringes of the lagoon. The bam swallows as they swooped and 
darted and dodged over the water did not seem so sure of them- 
selves as they usually were, and the gulls, which generally spent 
their mornings cruising over the bay, seemed chained in a long 
line to the peaked roof-ridge of the old mill. 

The water in the channel at the bridge was out of tune with 
the prevailing mood. The "tide" was busy shuttling back and 
forth with more than ordinary vigour: the timing between ebb 
and flow was that common to most days in summer, but each 
successive pulsation bore with it a greater volume of water. 
Moreover, whether flowing in or flowing out the stream was 
rushing with greater speed and vehemence and was making itself 
heard in a crescendo of splashing and gurgling like a mountain 
bum in spate. The normally docile minor seiche we saw in Pleasant 
Harbour had become here at Tamarac a turbulent reversing 
river. But in contrast to this agitation of waters we were sharply 
aware that the stifling air and the broad expanse of Stokes Bay 
were still as death. A feeling of apprehension almost made us 
shiver. Everything around us, animate and inanimate, seemed to 
share it with us. It was manifest that in the vast cauldron of the 
elements some extraordinary brew was being mixed. 

We were not left long to our guessing. Over the air came a 
voice giving out a loud, curt warning to mariners. I recall its 
substance though not its words. "Storm signals out for eastern 
Superior and northern Huron. All ships of deep draft in lower St. 
Mary's River anchor at once. Pleasure craft make for shelter 
without delay. Expect northwest winds sixty miles followed by 
torrential rain. Clearing later. Tomorrow clear and cooler/' 

Now we knew what brew of weather to look for. Nor was there 
much delay in the serving of it. The blanket of light grey which 
from noon onwards had been almost stealthily drawn over the 

The Tides d Bruce 89 

sky had by this time become stained with vast patches of an 
intensely dark grey. For several minutes it retained this shade 
and this formation, and then, as by an unseen hand, the fabric 
was rent apart into long parallel strips between which shone rays 
of a weird, coppery half-light dyed as with diluted blue-black 
ink. Far to the west we could faintly hear what might be the 
beating of surf on reefs or on shore, or even the sustained lashing 
of the tops of many trees. Even as we listened the air began to 
move slightly toward the southeast; its gentle fanning was wel- 
come indeed. 

During this interval of wondering and waiting we became 
aware that the little strait at the bridge was beginning to boil 
and foam in an unusual manner. Each incoming seiche was rising 
higher and with more commotion than the one before, and each 
ebb sank lower and more noisily than the ebb that had just pre- 
ceded it. The span between high water and low water was now 
at least a foot and was increasing with each reversal of the current, 
which had now the volume of a stream after a thaw. Though we 
were standing on the summit of the island two hundred yards 
from the turmoil the roar of it tingled in our ears. The whole 
scene touched every nerve within us. Even the birds were be- 
having oddly. In the eerie twilight, like that of an eclipse of the 
sun I once saw at Rondeau on Lake Erie, the swallows ceased 
their skimming over the bay and retired to the rafters of the old 
mill as if for the night. In separate flocks the gulls and the crows- 
set out, each flock in its own direction, with the singleness of 
purpose that marks a homeward flight. The only living thing 
within our ken that remained unmoved was a lone great blue 
heron. There he stood like a tall grey stick lodged in the muddy 
bottom of the lagoon. He had the air of waiting for something 
worth waiting for. He was right. Doubtless having lived all his 
summers in this region of inlets he had known such a scene before. 

At last, as though bursting through the rents in the sombre pall 
above, a tempest tore upon us. The release of all the winds of 
heaven in one moment from Aeolus* bag could not have struck 
with greater violence. The winds we had been hearing in the 
offing now seemed to take on visible substance. Yielding to their 
thrust the forest bowed as one tree and stayed thus fixed for 
many moments. Unable to stand longer before the blast we fled 
to the shelter of the old mill. Was this a tornado? Surely not in 
this corner of the globe! Our anxiety was not allayed by the 

The Bruce Beckons 

Lagoon at Tamarac Island normal level before a seiche 

casual remark of a villager bom and reared in Stokes Bay: "Weil, 
in July 1892, 1 think it was a twister blowed nearly all Wiarton 

No sooner had we dashed into the mill by the front door than 
we were summoned to the back door by the roaring of the water 
at the narrows. From the high landing outside we could see the 
whole lagoon and the bridge. The lagoon was as empty as a 
drained bath tub! The seiche driving in the same direction as the 
wind had drawn off all the water whose last dregs, churned into 
mud and strewji with a litter of dead herbage and brush, were 
pouring madly through the channel under the bridge. On the 
bare oozy bed of the lagoon stood out some unfamiliar objects- 
two wooden logging cribs weighted down with a filling of stones; 
in the lumbering days long past these had served as end-anchors 
to booms of logs. Round about them flopped helplessly a dozen or 
more huge carp and a host of small fry such as perch, sunfish, 
rock bass, and large shiners. And on these the heron, standing 
drunkenly a-totter in the gale, was lustily banqueting. As each 
fish descended to its gastric doom we could plainly follow its 
progress by watching the lump that passed down the long serpen- 
tine neck. It's an ill wind indeed that blows nobody good! 

But the enterprising bird was not left long to his feasting. In 

The Tides o Bruce 


Lagoon at Tamarac Islandtwenty minutes later, after a seiche 

a few minutes the water sank to its lowest point, stood still a 
while, and then began to flow back, at first gently, but soon at a 
speed that lifted the level of the lagoon eighteen inches above the 
average height for that summer. And thus the portentous ebb and 
flow went on for another quarter hour, a rhythmic seesaw of 
waters on an immense scale. What was the stupendous force that 
endowed one of Nature's most placid aspects with a capacity for 

For an answer hark back to the warning from the air. This 
force was as it were a fortuitous conspiracy of barometer, wind, 
and seiche to work in unisona pooling of their powers. The light 
pressure in the east allowed the waters to rise appreciably along 
the deeply indented shore of The Bruce. The high pressure on the 
Michigan side weighed down the level there and by the same 
action propelled the water eastward. This double push, reinforced 
by the drive of a near-hurricane, threw up a veritable flood upon 
the Bruce coast. But this is not yet the sum total of the elemental 
forces at work here: one has still to reckon with a "tide/' the 
secondary seiche, a normally unimpressive little movement but 
nevertheless a dynamic one which is in action night and day, in 
sunshine and under cloud, in summer and in winter, forever 
swinging to and fro in accord with the beating of some cosmic 

Q2 The Bruce Beckons 

metronome. No skill of man can wholly calm it or nullify its 
hidden power. When Nature happens to be in the mood to add 
this force to that of the other conjoint elements, she holds in her 
hand an engine whose possibilities of destruction defy computa- 

From all this tumult on the mainland side of Tamarac Island 
man was entirely absent except as a helpless onlooker. But on the 
Stokes Bay side it was different Heeding the warning from the 
air, lesser water craft of every pattern, from punts with humming 
outboard motors to sixty-foot luxurious gas-cruisers, were speeding 
from the open lake in a long broken column to find shelter or 
mooring at the government dock near the village of Stokes Bay. 
Most of the larger vessels were manifestly unfamiliar with these 
waters. On they hastened toward the dangerous shoal in mid- 
channel, innocents abroad in strange waters, unaware of the risk 
they were courting. The heap of jagged rocks was completely 
buried beneath a flood tide. By sheer luck most of the skippers 
safely passed by to one side or the other. But to the dismay of 
our watching group the finest and largest cruiser of the column 
was headed straight for the hidden peril. We were helpless to 
aid: the rush of the wind drowned our voices even shouting in 
concert, and the untimely twilight and the shifting curtain of 
spray concealed all signals. Now we knew why "it boots not to 
resist both wind and tide." Before our anxious gaze the graceful 
craft rode straight on to the lurking shoal Her bow rose abruptly 
and her stern dropped. In that position she came to a sharp stop 
and stood as though impaled on an unseen spike. 

But we were not the sole witnesses of this scene. From the 
government dock a rowboat struck out for the stranded cruiser. 
Even as the oarsmen sped toward her a strong ebb of the seiche 
set in and the water began to subside. By the time the rowboat 
reached its goal the peak of the shoal was standing a foot above 
the water. Upon it was perched the handsome vessel like a stream- 
lined Noah's Ark come to rest on the summit of a miniature 

But while the two crews conferred the dark blanket of cloud 
overhead was ripped again and again by jagged strokes of 
lightning. In a moment large solitary blobs of rain began driving 
through the air at a rakish slant. After that came the deluge. How 
long the cataract descended I cannot recall; it seemed to promise 
no end. In its falling it quickly beat down to a dead level the 

The Tides o' Bruce 93 

foaming crests of the breaking swells and ironed out the wrinkles 
of the wavelets. By the time the clouds had vented themselves 
of their burden the rain seemed to have subdued even the fur) 7 of 
the gale to the pace of a normal midsummer afternoon breeze. 

Not till then could the true plight of the cruiser be observed. 
By the veriest good fortune, it turned out, she had slid on an even 
keel upon the only smooth flat slab of dolomite in the whole reef. 
Had she veered a hand's breadth from her course her hull would 
have been slit open on the points of limestone that bristled all 
about. A few hours later the lovely craft was gently eased off 
the detaining rock into the water, unscathed though not mxmaired. 

While the cruiser was being set free, the sun, now nigh to 
setting, was beginning to stain the sky over Lake Huron; the dry, 
cool northwest breeze of evening was already calming nerves 
that had been taut and touchy all day long; the swallows were 
dipping and curvetting as usual over the lagoon; the nighthawks 
were swooping and screeching overhead, and the minor seiche, 
having spent all her reserves of power in the violent orgy of 
the daylight hours, was once more in her wonted mood guilelessly 
and quietly swinging back and forth, back and forth, in the 
narrows by the old log bridge. 

Chapter 9 


F the many gifts that Nature bestowed upon The Bruce 
L one in particular will never be seen there again. Indeed, 
it has vanished from the face of the earth. It is known now 
only in museums, in slim dockets of old records, and in the 
memories of a very few men of exceedingly great age. All too soon 
there will be not a single one of these left who can say: "With my 
own eyes I have seen this once marvellous gift the vast armies of 
the wild passenger pigeon." Among my elderly friends there is 
only one who saw this bird in the days of what seemed to be its 
unimpaired abundance. But it was not in The Bruce that he was 
acquainted with the creature; he knew it in the southern parts of 
Ontario and in Michigan. The person who first told me of its 
vast numbers and its habits in the Peninsula was my own father; 
during my boyhood in the middle eighties he spoke to me again 
and again of the great flights he saw there. His memory of them 
was still so vivid that he could never talk of them without con- 
siderable excitement. 

So far as I can figure out now it was in the latter half of April, 
1872, that my father went to the Bruce Peninsula. About the 
middle of that month he would have completed his freshman year 
in Toronto and so been free to take up some kind of summer 
work. A5 a candidate for the Baptist ministry he was charged 
with the duty of establishing a mission station on the north shore 
of Colpoy's Bay in a settlement of the same name. This place an 
attractive village today was ten years older than Wiarton, having 
been settled in 1856. Though only three miles from Wiarton it is 
in a different township Albemarle instead of Amabel a fact of 
some significance in regard to our present subject. 

My father came to the Bay from Owen Sound by the steamer 
Champion which was then giving a daily service to a number of 
small places in this comer of the Georgian Bay. He boarded during 
the summer in the log home of a farmer who had hewed a good- 


In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 95 

sized farm out of the forest, A picture of Ms entry into this frontier 
household was vividly stamped on his memory by two events of 
the first day: as he stepped from the steamer to the shore and 
walked to his summer quarters a vast flock of pigeons were flying 
from the east to their nesting area on the Peninsula and were 
casting a dark, swiftly moving cloud over the land. At his very 
first meal, supper, he was served adult wild pigeon. At breakfast 
the next morning this was the main dish, and for dinner too and 
then again for supper; indeed, it was the only piece de resistance 
and a tough one at that of each meal for the next five weeks. 
Moreover, each meal was opened with the same appropriate two- 
fold preface: the head of the family, with no trace of irony in his 
voice, devoutly thanked the Almighty for the bounty of his tender 
mercies, and with his first breath after the "Amen" offered the 
guest an apology for the bounty over-extended in the form of 
stringy parent pigeons. Somewhere in each grace the host never 
failed to cite the Lord's goodness to his chosen people in sending 
them flocks of quail to feed them in the wilderness. Nor in reciting 
his apology did the good man forget to hold before the stranger 
within his gates (like Moses portraying his vision of the Promised 
Land) the prospect of that delectable day soon to come when 
the butterball squabs would be ready to melt in the settlers* 

The people of the region took pride in believing that the Penin- 
sula was ideal country for the pigeons. It was common opinion 
around Colpoy's an opinion based solely on rumour that the 
nesting and roosting colonies were so numerous as to form vir- 
tually an unbroken chain running northward to a point not fat 
short of Tobermory. Of course, that was not quite true, but to 
express doubts about it was counted in the new settlement as dis- 
loyalty to the wonderful greatness of the Peninsula. However, the 
only colony that Father himself saw was very long indeed: it 
began near Chiefs Point on Lake Huron just north of the mouth 
of the Sauble River and extended in a broad sinuous line north to 
within a couple of miles of Lake Berf ord. That is, it ran from the 
west side of Amabel Township to a point two or three miles within 
Albemarle and slightly less than that distance north of Wiarton. 
What more natural than for the wild fowl of the air to ignore the 
boundary lines of a man-made survey! Somehow Father gained a 
distinct impression as to the direction in which the chain of 
rookeries ran: it seemed to follow inland and northward the 

QQ The Bruce Beckons 

winding course of a chain of shallow lakes Boat, Isaac, and Sky 
and their connecting streams and bordering marshlands, almost to 
the head of the chain, Berford Lake. 

That the colony covered several square miles was all too 
obvious, but how many one could only guess without making a 
special expedition to determine the exact figure. The area appeared 
to offer everything the pigeon needed to thrive suitable nesting 
sites on a huge scale; ample and varied food supply from early 
spring to early autumn; swampy tracts and stream beds that 
occasionally dried up in midsummer to satisfy a curious craving 
for mud and gravel. Nine or ten miles east of Berford Lake was 
another large colony of pigeons, but it was closed to the white 
settlers because it was within the bounds of the Indian reserve of 
Cape Croker. Observation of the colony nearer to his lodgings, 
together with the prime bass-fishing in Lake Berford, absorbed all 
the scant leisure he had left after completing his pastoral rounds 
over the slow trails of a pioneer territory. 

The sound and sight of the pigeons as they took wing on their 
morning flights and returned to their roosts in the late afternoon 
never ceased to impress, no matter how often one had seen or 
heard such flights before. The noise evoked as many comparisons 
as there were persons who heard it. It reminded Father of the 
deep booming basso of the Canadian Falls at Niagara as heard 
by one standing on the footway behind the heavy curtain of 
falling water. To others it seemed like the deep tones of thunder 
as its echoes roll across the sky; to still others it resembled the 
roar of an express train rushing past near by. It was astonishing 
that such a sustained volume of sound could be produced by such 
small creatures. The classic description of the impression made 
upon the human mind by the vast flocks of the wild pigeons is 
that of the Indian Chief, Simon Pokagon, who gave it to the 
world in print in 1895 on the very eve of the bird's extinction; one 
can do no better than quote it now. "I have seen them move/* 
writes Pokagon, "in one unbroken column for hours across the 
sky, like some great river, ever varying in hue; and as the mighty 
stream sweeping on at sixty miles an hour, reached some deep 
valley, it would pour its living mass headlong down hundreds of 
feet, sounding as though a whirlwind was abroad in the land. I 
have stood by the grandest waterfall of America and regarded the 
descending torrents in wonder and astonishment, yet never have 
my astonishment, wonder and admiration been so stirred as when 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 


An Army of Pigeons Invades the Peninsula 

I have witnessed these birds drop from their course like meteors 
from heaven." 

The settlers' constant wonder that the pigeons always flew 
southeastward in the morning across Colpoy's Bay and Owen 
Sound raised the question of what the birds fed upon. It was 
surmised, and perhaps correctly, that in Grey, Simcoe, and other 
easterly counties they found greater areas of land sown to peas 
and spring wheat where they could easily forage. But what did 
they eat in April? Of only one thing was anybody really certain: 
upon alighting after their spring flight the pigeons forthwith 
addressed themselves in hordes to scratching through the litter of 
the previous autumn's leaves to pick up the remnant of beechnuts 
that had escaped the sharp eyes of the red squirrels. In this region 
it was not acorns they sought, since the white oak did not grow 
there and red oaks were few, as they still are. The beech, how- 
ever, was abundant and many specimens are yet to be seen in the 
area. But when the tasty fare of nuts was gone what did the 
pigeons eat? None of the oldest inhabitants had an answer to give; 
I have had to dig it out .of books. Undoubtedly, the diet then be- 
came a varied one: chiefly the tender leaf and flower buds of such 
trees as the elm, birch, and aspen; a little later, the winged seeds 
of the elm (sometimes called elm-nuts) and of the maple. With 

9 The Bruce Beckons 

these green stuffs were mixed several kinds of the previous year's 
ground berries-wintergreen, partridgeberry, bearberry, and the 
little red fruit of the lowly Canadian dogwood, the bunchberry. 
One who knows the prolific plant Me that hugs the soil under the 
screen of the Brace forest may suspect that the pigeons' spring 
fare was anything but lean. 

What the ravenous fowl ate in summer was never in question, 
for one could see them as it were at table. In hosts they would 
drop upon a clearing crimson with wild strawberries and in a few 
minutes leave it just a patch of rumpled green. By mid July all 
the Juneberry bushes were stripped of their juicy little fruits, as 
were also the wild raspberries, currants, and even the prickly 
gooseberries. Later, the birds pillaged the pin cherries of their tart 
scarlet bullets. In some parts of the United States the pin cherry 
was not without reason known as pigeon cherry. In harvest time 
the pigeons were not a great threat to the newly broken lands of 
the Peninsula; for them the stooks on the older and broader wheat 
fields farther south were a greater attraction. But they did annoy 
the makers of the new clearings for they had a most uncanny 
way of telling which of these open spaces in the forest were 
planted to peas. Sometimes the settler had to plant his peas twice 
in the same season. If the pigeons missed the second planting and 
allowed it to mature its crop, there was still a chance that they 
might swoop down upon it and in a mere half hour thresh it clean. 
In 1872 Father s host, a grower of peas, was one who suffered 
from this scourge. He who in spring had fervently given thanks 
before meat for the boon the early pigeons had been to his meagre 
board, in autumn just as fervently cursed them for robbery. 

We can now understand why a certain bishop of New France 
was driven to lay a curse, like that laid upon the thieving Jackdaw 
of Rheims, upon the pigeons that plagued the Lake Champlain 
region. Baron de Lahontan, who was there in September of 1686, 
tells the story thus: ". . . we eat nothing but Water-fowl for fifteen 
Days; after which we resolv'd to declare War against the Turtle- 
Doves, which are so numerous in Canada, that the Bishop has been 
forc'd to excommunicate 'em oftner than once, upon the account 
of the Damage they do to the Product of the Earth. With that 
view, we imbarqued and made towards a Meadow, in the Neigh- 
bourhood of which, the Trees were cover'd with that sort of Fowl, 
more than with Leaves: for just then 'twas the season in which 
they retire from the North Countries, and repair to the Southern 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 99 

Climates; and one would have thought, that all the Turtle-Doves 
upon Earth had chose to pass thro' this place. For the eighteen or 
twenty days that we stay'd there, I firmly believe that a thousand 
Men might have fed upon *ein heartily, without putting themselves 
to any trouble." 1 

The wild pigeon, both individually and in its distinctive cor- 
porate life, was a creature of rare distinction. From our mourning 
dove, its closest existing kin, we can recover for ourselves a picture 
of its extraordinarily graceful lines, and, by a slight amplification 
of length and breadth, gain an idea of its size. Its habit of congre- 
gating in gigantic flocks was unique among the species of the 
whole pigeon family; the similar instinct of the western variety 
of the North American mourning dove, as shown in its winter 
home on the desert of Arizona, is only faintly comparable. All 
who know our wild pigeon agree that both the male and his some- 
what smaller and plainer consort were most beautiful birds: the 
amazing iridescence of the rosy neck and breast of the male and 
the rich shaded blue-black of the wings and back of both sexes 
caught the observer's eye, while their long graceful tails completed 
the perfect streamlining that made swift, sustained flight possible. 
Sometimes when the sun's rays fell at a certain angle upon the 
flying clouds of birds one seemed to be beholding a great trailing 
streamer of shot-silk billowing across the sky. 

In its mass feeding on the ground the wild pigeon had a way 
of its own: we can see a hint of it on a smaller scale in the 
orderly foraging march of an army of starlings across an Ontario 
stubble field. In a cascade the pigeons would fall from high up in 
the air upon the ground, whether in the forest or in the fields, and 
then, as if conscious of moving under the orders of a leader, 
would straightway deploy into a broad front with a relatively 
shallow depth. The whole body would then rotate forward over 
the ground like a colossal cylinder with a surface of agitated 
feathers. While the birds in the van of this animated roller picked 
the soil and litter clean, those in the rear would flutter overhead 
and onward to form a new advancing front. And thus this living 
juggernaut wheeled across tracts of woodland or tilth as ruthlessly 
as an avalanche tumbles down a mountainside. From all parts of 
the lower Peninsula men and women thronged to this great open 
air aviary to watch the pigeons feed. Each sightseer had his own 
figure of speech to describe the action of the pigeon army in the 

1. Letter XI; Lahontans Voyages, ed. Stephen Leacock, p. 46. 

100 The Bruce Beckons 

field; one of them with a sense of humour and of the picturesque 
termed it "leapfrog with wings." 

In most parts of Ontario frequented by the pigeons, nesting 
colonies and resting roosts were considerable distances apart, 
but in the great Amabel-Albemarle rookery they were close to- 
gether. Hunters of the region found this a great convenience: 
they could secure their quarry in two kinds of environment 
without having to travel far. While for nesting the pigeons seemed 
in the main to prefer deciduous trees, in The Bruce all kinds of 
conifers pines, spruces black and white, balsam, cedar, hemlock, 
and possibly tamarac were freely occupied. Father had the im- 
pression that in this region no species of tree was ignored. In a 
single tree there might be only one nest or there might be twenty. 
Each nest was a roughly made affair much like that of the mourn- 
ing dove. As I write these lines an occupied dove's nest may be 
seen twenty feet from my study window; made of coarse twigs it 
reminds me of a random pile of jackstraws pressed down in the 
middle just enough to form a saucerlike hollow. The nests were 
placed at different heights above the ground, some as low as 
eight or ten feet and others in the topmost branches. The birds 
appeared to have a faint engineering sense, for when they were 
not crowded for space or pressed for time a pair would lodge 
their nest in a crotch of a branch close to the trunk of the tree. 
But when the late-comers found most safe positions of this kind 
to be already occupied, they built farther and farther out on the 
limbs until the weight of brooding and roosting birds some- 
times snapped the branches off. Down would come a rain of eggs 
and squab in various stages of development! 

To this pot-pourri of the living and die decayed was added the 
offence of the filth that coated the ground beneath the tree. But 
bad as it was it was not enough to chill the hunters' lust for 
slaughter. The descriptions of this stench that old hunters once 
gave me I have been able to appreciate keenly since August of 
1931, when I saw Jack Miner's grove of three thousand Scots 
pines which to the last tree, it seemed, had been killed by the 
excess of nitrogen dropped on the ground by millions of roosting 
starlings. The Bruce had its parallel to this forest tragedy: an old- 
timer of Red Bay used to tell about certain wooded tracts on the 
edges of the Amabel rookery whose trees, after the pigeons had 
sojourned in them for two or three seasons, looked as if they had 
been swept by flames. 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 101 

A hen pigeon laid one or two eggs at each brooding. Despite 
the immense total of the pigeons massed in flight the species was 
not prolific in the sense that the wild duck is prolific. Two factors 
in particular seemed to account for the enormous size of the 
pigeon population: the bird's capacity for raising, under favour- 
able conditions, more than one brood in a season and, the almost 
perfect safety enjoyed by the colonies that nested in the vast un- 
peopled forests of the Hudson Bay watershed. 

The story of the massacre of the wild pigeon of North America 
is, by reason of its stupendous scale, only a degree less horrible 
than the story of the long, bloody conflict between white and 
Indian. However, man was not the pigeon's first foe: long before 
he came on the scene the larger hawks harried the flocks as they 
swept across land and water, seizing one by one birds that 
straggled away from the speeding column. The cold strategy of 
the attacker and the frantic efforts of the prey to escape were a 
fascinating spectacle. Plainly, the scheme of the hawks was to 
scatter the pigeons as much as possible. This they did in several 
ways. One hawk would hover over the column causing it to dip 
low; another would tag on the rear, forcing the birds in panic to 
crowd forward; still another would swoop down on the van and 
make it veer sharply to one side. Always amid these wild evolu- 
tions a few pigeons lost touch with their flock and became easy 
prey. Here, a successful marauder could be seen in laboured 
flight bearing away his quarry to devour it in some quiet spot 
apart; yonder, others were returning singly to repeat their raids. 
The mad convolutions of the flocks under the shifting pressure on 
every hand reminded the frontiersman of a dense column of smoke 
from a forest fire twisting and curling across country before the 
lashing of cross winds. On a sunny day all the colours of the 
rainbow glinted from myriads of flashing feathers in splendid play. 

The ways of slaughtering the pigeons were many, and varied 
with the conditions under which the hunter happened to come 
upon them. In spring their peculiar manner of flying at random all 
over the country before they decided just when and where to alight 
made their lives cheap indeed. In this stage of indecision the 
stupid birds would move in a long trailing line that sped along 
just above the varying levels of the landscape, rising and falling 
like waves over the tops of trees, across clearings and woodland 
roads, and again over shrubs and thickets. When the line barely 
skimmed the ground bands of men and boys would bat the birds 

102 The Bruce Beckons 

down with clubs or poles or scoop them out of the air with anglers' 
landing nets. 

This latter means of capture was suddenly brought back to 
my father's mind in 1910. When our family took up residence in 
a summer cottage in Muskoka we found a very large colony of 
bats lodged in a spacious recess between chimney and rafters. 
Prodded by a stick the creatures flew out in a cloud and circled 
around the adjacent lamplit room. Father and I both took up a 
position, like a batter at the home plate, vigorously swinging 
broomsticks and landing nets. At the end of the bout the tally 
was forty-four bats. "J ust 1& S a pig eon hunt at Colpoy's," gasped 
Father, "only the pigeons flew straighter." 

The gun was mightier than either club or hand net. But it was 
deadly only in the hands of one who knew how to use it Laugh- 
able indeed was the blank amazement of greenhorns who shot 
straight into the van of the oncoming birds and failed to drop 
even a feather. However, the lesson to hold fire until the birds 
had just passed over was soon learned. The echoing reports of 
pot-hunters* guns sounded over Amabel as if the township were 
the scene of a frontier battle between white man and red man. 
What better commentary could one want than this news para- 
graph from a Bruce County weekly, the Paisley Advocate, of 
April 28, 1876: "The immense flocks of pigeons which have been 
flying over various parts of the country in an undecided way for 
the last week or two have gathered in the township of Amabel 
in countless numbers, and have begun building. The nests are in 
thousands, and many eggs lie on the ground owing to the breaking 
down of branches. The place is visited by scores of persons, and 
all the shot in Owen Sound and Southampton seems to have been 
fired away as a telegram has been received in Paisley asking for 
a supply." 1 

For many reasons there were not as many pigeon hunters in 
The Bruce as there were in the older settlements of Ontario and 
Michigan frequented by pigeons. The pioneers in The Bruce were 
few and could spare but a small part of spring and summer for the 
quest of the wild fowl. The remoteness of the Peninsula and the 
lack of direct access to it by railway kept down the numbers of 
hunters from other areas. The absence of large markets near by 
left little incentive for those who would like to become professional 

I. Norman Robertson, History of the County of Bruce (Toronto: William 
Briggs, 1906), p. 79. 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 103 

traffickers in pigeons. Only the Indians of Cape Croker came close 
to belonging to such a class. However, the few, both white and 
Indian, in the region who in the summer of 1872 made a trade of 
the killing, storing, and vending of pigeons gave an account of 
themselves which in volume would have done credit to an army. 

The pigeons were not safe either day or night. When nesting 
was well under way the birds were taken with the utmost ease. 
As they sat on their eggs, or perched idly in the trees, or even 
as they billed and cooed in the ardour of mating, with the 
stupidity of the spruce grouse they barely moved aside as people 
came near them. They were clubbed, or shot, or pulled down by 
ruthless hands, just as they sat. Their captors alertly improvised 
many ways of killing them quickly so as to lose no time when 
the stream of slaughter was flowing strong. Some had the knack 
of giving a bird's neck a deft little twist, some knew the exact 
spot at the base of the head or behind the eyes to apply the 
pressure of thumb and finger or even of a pair of pincers and all 
was over in a trice. A callous few found their own two jaws as 
effective as a tool and much more handy. As the butchers worked 
they threw their victims into bloody heaps, each man to his own. 

Revolting as the carnage of adult pigeons was that of the squab 
was more so. Unable to do more than flutter idly, the young could 
be picked up like inert lumps of flesh. Being very soft they bled 
easily. Even children when given the task of wringing necks, 
without intending to be violent, often pulled the heads right off. 
The young folk though shrinking at first from the gory work soon 
became hardened to their part in it by the zest of seeing things 
done. For several weeks the scene in the forest was almost a con- 
tinuous shambles day and night: in the daytime twilight of the 
woods it was ghastly enough to make one look away, but in the 
fitful red flare of pine knot torches it was so positively ghoulish 
as to make the flesh creep. But what really stabbed the senses 
was the sight, illumined by flares, of a tree felled by the hunters* 
axes crashing its way to the ground through neighbouring trees 
and carrying with it its helpless population of nests and birds. 

There were other ways of reaping this gruesome harvest, 
notably netting and trapping. Oddly enough, many a hunter 
whose normal shrinking from cruelty had been numbed by the 
very excess of it hesitated to resort to these devices on the 
ground that they were cruel in requiring the use of blinded 
decoys~"stool pigeons." Whether for this reason or because there 

104 The Bruce Beckons 

were too few open spaces suited to the spreading o nets, netting 
was little used in the Peninsula. Nets varied greatly in size, 
ranging from 8 by 30 feet to 40 by 100. I have personally known 
only one man who employed this ancient form of "the snare of 
the fowler" in The Bruce; he operated in the soggy flat lands 
north of Chiefs Point on the Lake Huron side. His description of 
the nets and how they were worked is too full of details to be 
cited here. 1 Apparently, few persons in the region made systematic 
use of box traps and liming, that is, smearing branches of trees 
with sticky substances to which -the pigeons* feet would adhere. It 
was thought that the Indians resorted to such" objectionable means 
in the seclusion of their reserve. 

The masses of victims would be taken away on the backs of 
men or in wagons (where trails had been opened) or in home- 
made boats. None but the sluggard's cabin was entirely without a 
supply of pigeons. Market outlets were scant and distant. Inland 
towns in south Bruce, north Huron, and in Grey got their birds 
from nearby rookeries. The Indians of Cape Croker were by far 
the most active purveyors of the whole region. They would muster 
all the small craft of the reserve, load them to the gunwhales with 
pigeons, and peddle their wares at every shanty and hamlet along 
the shores of Colpoy's Bay and the Sound from Wiarton to the 
town of Owen Sound itself. In the squab season a little Indian 
flotilla plying its coastwise trade was a common sight. One of 
these was made up, according to a description I have seen some- 
where, of a sailboat laden with birds and behind it in tow a couple 
of crude punts one .of which was filled with fish and the other 
with pigeons. What the peddlers did not sell en route was quickly 
sold at Owen Sound. This was added to quantities of birds caught 
in Grey and then shipped to places even as far away as Toronto. 

Many were the ways of preparing pigeon for the table. A list 
of the various ways favoured in southern Ontario or in Michigan 
held equally well for the settlers of Amabel and Albemarle in the 
Peninsula. The adult birds of the early season, though tough with 
age and long flights, were a welcome change after a winter's dull 
diet of salt pork, beans, and potatoes. Prepared in any way fried, 
stewed, roasted, boiled, or in succulent pot pies they were ap- 
petizing morsels. The last-named dish was favoured above all the 
others, but it took time to make. Usually the busy pioneer house- 

1. Margaret H. Mitchell, The Passenger Pigeon in Ontario (University of 
Toronto Press, 1935), p. 124. 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 105 

wife fried the old birds for the same reason that the modern city 
matron speeds up the work of the morning by frying bacon. Even 
now the reading of Mrs. TrailFs recipe for pigeon pot pie makes 
one's mouth water and gives meaning to a popular ditty of a 
century ago that was patently a parody of a well-known gospel 
hymn. When I was a small boy my paternal grandmother, re- 
calling her experiences with the pigeon in the Ottawa valley, 
used to recite it for me. 

When I can shoot my rifle clear 

At pigeons in the sky, 
I'll say good-bye to pork and beans 

And live on pigeon pie. 

In storing squab most people kept only the plump breasts and 
legs. These were first salted in brine; some were left continuously 
in the same liquid and others were smoked and dried. In a few 
homes the numbers of birds packed away were so great that even 
the dogs were sometimes fed on them. But plenty, like a medal, 
has two faces one, contentment, the other, surfeit. With the 
advent of the spring pigeons the pioneer at his laden table saw 
only the bright face and never dreamed there was another. How- 
ever, six weeks of old birds, another six weeks of fresh squab 
followed by months of both kinds cured and stored, revealed the 
other face with all its dulness. Those who had feasted were now 
cloyed. Even the most pious householders were heard to murmur. 
The young student preacher, himself bored by the excess of a 
relish, could not consistently chide his flock for their complaining. 
The situation called back to my father's mind certain events of his 
boyhood in the fifties. In spring and summer the Atlantic salmon 
used to run in dense schools up the CMteauguay and other tribu- 
taries of the St. Lawrence. The rural tables of the district were as 
heavy with salmon as the tables of The Bruce were with pigeons. 
At long last Father understood with deep feeling why, before 
hiring out, farm hands made their employers pledge themselves 
not to serve salmon of tener than so many times a week. For Father 
the upshot of the matter was that within himself he prayed that 
the Lord would not call Tiirn to that part of The Bruce the next 
summer. The prayer was answered. It was not without keen 
regrets, however, that in 1873 he accepted a charge in another 
part of Ontario, for he had fallen in love with the Peninsula as a 
whole, while acquiring a distaste for a daily menu top-heavy with 

206 The Bruce Beckons 

But never again will anyone, in The Brace or elsewhere in 
North America, know a surfeit of the passenger pigeon. It has 
gone forever. In The Bruce its numbers began to dwindle rapidly 
in the last three years of the seventies; by 1885 the birds were 
scarce indeed. A resident of Red Bay whom I knew saw his last 
pigeon near there in 1893. As far as the whole Georgian Bay 
region is concerned the last word of the race's obituary is this: 
in May of 1902 three pigeons a pair and a single bird were seen 
near Penetanguishene, Simcoe County. 

But who, or what, caused this once uniquely numerous species 
to disappear, and so quickly? In the light of a bloody record every- 
body leaps to blame "man, false man, smiling, destructive man." 
But one must always beware of the obvious. This answer may 
explain the bison's near extinction, but science in her caution 
believes it only partly true of the passenger pigeon. 

No living person is in a position to tell us, with finality, what the 
other part of the story is. But several theories put forth by 
scholars who have studied the problem long and carefully im- 
press one as having the convincing power of truth. 1 All authorities 
agree that "no one agency was entirely responsible for the dis- 
appearance, but ... it was brought about by a combination of 
circumstances." 2 All agree too that the basic cause of extermina- 
tion was in the nature of the pigeon itself. As a species it was a 
slave of instinctive habit and was supremely lacking in intel- 
ligence. When its routine of life was upset it was unable to adjust 
itself to the resulting changes. It would seem that, like certain 
other creatures observed by science, the passenger pigeon in 
order to survive had to maintain its population up to an especially 
high figure; it died out when the population dropped below that 

But there must have been other factors also. It is not improbable 
that some disease perhaps a disease already mildly endemic 
among the pigeons, or one brought from another continent and 
caught by the pigeons from barnyard fowl may have fastened 
itself upon the race after loss of numbers had made it too weak 
to resist. Certainly a plague of any degree of virulence would 
have aggravated an already dangerous imbalance in the pigeon's 

group lire. 
But after all the chief disturber of this life was man. Much of 

1. For a summary and discussion of views see ibid., pp. 128-47. 

2. Ibid., p. 138. 

In the Day of the Wild Pigeon 107 

the harm he did to the pigeon he did in innocence: even his 
laudable efforts to civilize the wilderness, such as logging, clear- 
ing the land, and setting up hamlets and towns, little by little 
forced the pigeon to retreat from its natural haunts. But none of 
man's acts was so violently subversive of the pigeon's normal 
manner of mass life as was his intemperate butchery. He had 
easy access to the passenger pigeon's nesting places, and he 
became its fatal enemy. 

Chapter 10 


ON his map of 1815 Captain Owen clearly shows lying off 
The Bruce a line of small islands one of which is larger 
than any one of the others. He leaves them nameless. But 
in 1822 Captain Bayfield fills in the gap by writing across it the 
name "Ghegheto" and, close by, the words "Fishing Islands." In 
another document the Indian name is spelt "Gaheto." There is 
reason to believe that this form is none other than the Huron or 
Petun word for island or islands. Until 1885 the tiny archipelago 
belonged to the Saugeen Indians who in that year ceded them to 
the Crown. 

A story still told among the Indians of the Reserve, but which 
one cannot now verify, has it that the transaction was a very 
shady one: the Indians were simply sold down the river by one 
of their own race, A resident of the Reserve (though perhaps not 
a member), a certain Jack Martin, a Mohawk at that, undertook 
without authority to act for the Reserve. According to the story, 
he sold the islands to the Crown at seventy-five cents apiece. But 
this might not have been the scandalous sell-out it seemed to be. 
If in a period of low water, the summit of every reef and every 
rock showing above water was counted as an island, the sum 
paid by the Crown may have been no trifling one. At any rate, 
it is said that to escape the wrath of the Reserve Jack Martin 
cleared out with the money. 

Soon after the Crown formally took over the archipelago the 
whole chain was properly surveyed. However, over the years the 
gradual lowering of the level of Lake Huron so changed the out- 
lines and areas of individual islands that in many cases one could 
not tell just where the boundary lines between islands lay. Under 
such uncertain conditions nobody was willing to acquire an 
island. So in 1899 a new survey was begun and upon its com- 
pletion a year later the islands were put up for sale. Fishing 


The Great Draughts of Fishes 109 

Islands, in very truth! Though now long past their prime, no 
archipelago anywhere ever bore a more fitting name. 

Even the names of the islands from the south of the chain to 
the north throw off little flashes of meaning. Some hint at casual 
episodes of local import, some at aspects of natural history, some 
at freakish contours and outlines. Even a passing glance at them 
brings out what manner of things, trivial or serious, influence the 
pioneer in choosing labels for the diverse places of his new-found 
world. Here are some of the seventy islands, which vary in size 
from the flat top of a dry shoal to Cranberry, the largest, with its 
124 acres. Though the names seem as matter-of-fact as a laundry 
list, they are actually as quick with life as were the men who 
allotted them: Whitefish, Cigar, Whisky, Smokehouse, Squaw, 
the Jacks, Main Station, Cranberry, Rabbit, Frog, Rowan, Burke, 
Basswood, Snake, Beament, Round, and Green. On paper you may 
sail close to them with safety, but if you approach them by water, 
beware! Scout Reef, Drake and Harrison Shoals, Hattie Rock, and 
the long underwater arm of the Chimney Reefs are an ever 
present threat to those who venture rashly. 

In 1831 (or perhaps a year or two earlier), just a few years 
after John Gait made his historic voyage on the gunboat Bee from 
Penetanguishene to Flowerpot Island and thence round Cape 
Kurd to the new Goderich on the Menesetung (now the Mart- 
land ) River, Captain Alexander McGregor of this lively hamlet 
was busy exploring the eastern shore of Lake Huron northward 
to the very tip of the Saugeen Peninsula. Not a bay, river mouth, 
channel, or inlet escaped his scrutiny. Everywhere, in off-shore 
shallows as well as in deep water, he found an abundance of the 
kinds of fish that are in commercial demandherring, whitefish, 
and lake trout. But one spot was favoured above all others by 
herring and whitefish. Here in their seasons these two species 
came together in schools so dense that the fish, like Pacific salmon 
crowding up stream to their spawning beds, fairly lifted each 
other out of the water. This area was the varied waters of the 
Fishing Islands, their shoals, rocky banks, and the network of 
pools and winding channels among the islets. 

But what lure was it that drew the fish hither in such huge 
bodies? That was a mystery. It was probably a supply of some 
favourite food which Nature had stored here on a scale little short 
of fabulous. Whatever it was, Captain McGregor saw at once that 

The Bruce Beckons 

this was no time for theorizing but for action. Never before had 
a wayfarer on the Great Lakes in search of fish run into such luck. 
Here they were actually tumbling out of the water as if inviting 
capture. Without delay he bought a stock of seines, twine and kit 
for repairing them, and drying racks, added to his fleet of two- 
masted schooners and rowboats, and put in many barrels and a 
quantity of coarse salt. In a few weeks he had a camp ready for 

Of course Captain McGregor caught fish, sometimes too many. 
That realization turned exultation to dismay. Like so many other 
pioneers who reap the rich harvest of a new territory, he found 
that in the zest of rapid calculation he had overlooked a vital 
factor: he had forgotten to obtain an outlet big enough to absorb 
his product. Many a frontier farmer has failed to provide in ad- 
vance a market for his surplus wheat. Though this kind of situation 
has a tinge of humour about it, it is still too grim to be funny. Not 
till 1834 did McGregor find the market he needed. In that year 
he made a contract with a Detroit company to deliver not less 
than 3,000 barrels a year of salted whitefish and herring. The 
price was set at $1 a barrel, the company to assume tibe cost of 
cleaning, curing, and packing of all fish delivered even in excess 
of the quantity specified in the contract. While shipment by 
schooner from The Bruce to Detroit was long and, in the heat of 
summer, precarious, nevertheless in the main the arrangement 
was satisfactory for McGregor. From the start the business thrived 
and continued to thrive in a way that drew the eyes of envy 
upon it. 

That the fishing was all that the fisherman himself said it was 
we are assured by a visitor who saw it. In July of 1838 the famous 
missionary to the Indians, the Reverend James Evans, when on 
his way by canoe to Sault Ste Marie, spent a day at the "Saugeen 
Fishing Island" to preach to the fishermen of "the Huron Fishing 
Company/' "This is a fine fishery," he notes; "sometimes four 
hundred barrels of herring are caught at one single haul of the 
seine." Think of it; more than one-tenth of the minimum delivery 
for a year! 1 

In more senses than one McGregor's course was not all easy 
sailing. Many a mishap befell the two-masters in which he took 
his packs of fish downlake to Goderich and Sarnia and thence on 

1. Tradition has it that McGregor's last lift was 7,000 measures of 100 pounds 
each ( 350 tons ); for lack of salt half the catch was let go. 

The Great Draughts of Fishes 111 

to Detroit. In the autumn of 1835 one of his ships ran ashore 
thirty-six miles north of Goderich and was frozen in for the whole 
winter. But nothing so petty as that could daunt its owner: if he 
could not deliver the cargo by water he would by land. This he 
did by sleigh over the snow. In his diary Liard of Goderich states 
that on January 29, 1836, and again on March 18, he saw Mc- 
Gregor pass through Goderich on his way to the imprisoned 
schooner for a load of salted fish, each time driving a train of f our 
sledges. How many times he made the trip unknown to the people 
of the village one can only guess. 

Faithful accounts of the manner in which the fish were caught 
off the Fishing Islands are still to be had. By far the best is the 
one which the late Norman Robertson of Walkerton includes in 
his History of the County of Bruce of 1906. His information had 
come straight from the lips of McGregor's son, Murray, who was 
active in the fishery with his father. Murray's version calls to 
mind stories of the South Seas where natives, perched on high 
cliffs, scan the waters for signs of great schools of fish of many 
kinds. It was Captain McGregor's practice to post a man in a tall 
tree to enable him to get a clear view of the expanse frequented 
by the schooling fish. There the watcher stayed patiently, some- 
times for many tedious hours, looking much like a kingfisher on 
a branch overhanging a pool What he sought was the first glint 
of a sheet of sparkling silver moving swiftly over the water. The 
instant he spied it he shouted his discovery to the men on the 
ground. Without delay they launched the large heavy rowboai 
which, its stem piled high with the folds of a long seine, was 
held ready to respond to a sudden call. Guided by the lookout's 
signals they steered straight to the oncoming horde of fish. They 
dropped the net at a point from which they could begin drawing 
it in a great curve that would surround the moving mass. The 
circle completed, the animated "kettle of fish" was laboriously 
dragged shorewards. 

Though of a race commonly accounted as stupid the fish did 
not submit without a struggle. "When [they] commenced to feel 
the pressure from the narrowing of the net/* writes Robertson, 
"the scene was one long to be remembered. There in a small area 
were entrapped thousands and thousands of fish, sufficient pos- 
sibly to fill five hundred to a thousand barrels. The water in that 
circumscribed space seemed to be fairly alive as the fish in their 
efforts to escape rushed madly about, causing Its agitated surface 

112 The Bruce Beckons 

to glitter with their silvery sides." Sometimes it happened that a 
huge sturgeon, weighing a hundred pounds or more, would be 
caught in the great loop along with the myriads of lesser fry. Like 
a salmon scaling the face of a waterfall it would hurl itself into the 
air in a vain effort to clear the slowly closing barrier. Perhaps 
several garpike, the swordfish of our fresh waters, would add to 
the commotion by shooting like arrows across the seething mass 
into the meshes of the net. But as a rule the twine was tough 
enough to hold them, too. Yet the fishermen did not like them, 
for they were always a threat to nets made with meshes gauged 
for smaller and weaker fish; with the philosophical manner of 
their guild they accepted them as among the minor hazards of 
their trade. 

At length the net was hauled up close to the shore. Into the very 
middle of the seething pond which it formed strode a bare-legged 
fisherman armed with a long-handled scoop-net. With this he 
threw the fish on the beach in a slithering heap. When this seemed 
to contain all that the men could pack in a single day, the net was 
eased off shore into deeper water and the catch kept alive for 
packing on the morrow. Not seldom, through sheer ill luck or 
through lack of foresight, were the fishermen's labours brought 
to a rude halt by a shortage of barrels or of salt. At such times 
they would ruefully open die net and release the fish they were 
unable to handle. When a pack became large enough to make a 
full cargo, off it would go by schooner to Detroit 

So successful was McGregor's business among the Fishing 
Islands that he soon saw he needed more room for living quarters 
and storage than a mere camp afforded. Salt and packed fish 
could not be kept safely in the open air. With the quick returns 
from his lucrative trade the Captain built on Main Station 
Island, one of the largest of the group, a solid stone building 
fifty-seven feet long and eighteen feet wide. This satisfied all im- 
mediate needs. Today though in partial ruin it testifies to the skill 
and thoroughness of the pioneer mason. But its chief distinction 
is that it is the first building to be erected in the whole County 
of Bruce. As we have seen, local legends have gathered around 
it, all of them tinged with hints of adventure or of romance. 1 One 
of them has it that the building is an old trading post of the 
French regime. But this claim must yield to the story Captain 
McGregor's son, Murray, told to Norman Robertson. The latter 

1. See chap. VII, "Folklore of the Fishing Islands," pp. 72-3. 

The Great Draughts of Fishes 


"The Fort? McGregors Headquarters, Main Station Island 

inferred that the building was put up about 1834, though the 
year may have been as early as 1828. By 1848 the structure had 
acquired a notable status. In a report issued in that year Alexander 
Murray, a government geologist, states that "with the exception 
of a building which was raised by a fishing company at Gaheto, 
or Fishing Islands, there is not a single dwelling on any part of 
the coast all the way from the Saugeen [River] to Cape Hurd/* 
It-is the tallest pine that draws the lightning, says Horace, that 
shrewd old Roman. So in the world of affairs striking success 
attracts the shafts of jealousy. Captain McGregor's good fortune 
was at once spectacular and unique. Here in waters very easy to 
command was a natural store of a staple food in quantities that 
seemed to be unlimited. Yes, unlimited as the armies of wild 
pigeons that crowded the airways and the forests of the continent; 
unlimited as the bison whose herds packed the broad spaces of 
the western prairies. Who in the eighteen-thirties dared suspect 
that before the end of the century the bird would have passed 
into utter extinction and that the beast would be on the verge of 
a similar fate? Whether McGregor himself believed that the 
schools of Lake Huron fish were inexhaustible or not, nobody 
can now say, but we do know that certain of his fellow-citizens 
did believe it They saw other reasons also for the exceptionally 
profitable nature of his business: it required very little capital to 

114 The Bruce Beckons 

maintain; its market was rapidly expanding; returns were quick 
and in cash. The lucky McGregor was indeed a ready mark for 

The next stage was not far off. A clique of his own fellow- 
townsmen cast covetous eyes upon his business. At a date now 
known only approximately Colonel "Tiger" Dunlop, Dr. Hamil- 
ton, and Trader Gooding, claiming for their action the high 
motive of protecting their country's interests, pointed out to the 
Government that the country was suffering terrible losses of rich 
natural resources. Their Exhibit A was the dumping of fish from 
the prolific Fishing Islands into a foreign market. Moreover, they 
charged, fishing on those grounds was under no control of any 
kind. So they urged the Government to require each fisherman 
operating there to take out a licence. This kind of talk, only some 
fifteen years after the War of 1812, fell upon ears only too quick 
to listen to representations against a former enemy. Unfriendly 
words were spoken in public about that nation, but their effect 
upon the relations between the two countries was as slight as 
they were insincere. The real aim of the little syndicate of loyalists 
was not, it seems, to steer the fishing schooners from the channels 
of an alien market into the channels of domestic commerce, but 
rather to gain exclusive control of the Fishing Islands industry 
for themselves. It was as slick a political manoeuvre as the famous 
"double shuffle" of the fifties. 

The outcome was foreordained: the noble band of patriots 
became the Niagara Fishing Company and was given a licence 
according it the sole right to fish the favoured waters off the 
Saugeen Peninsula. 1 The threats against truck and trade with a 
foreign power turned out to be just what they were intended to 
be threats only. The salted herrings and whitefish of the Cana- 
dian Fishing Islands were still borne into the market of Detroit. 
There was one difference: henceforth the sails that bore them 
were those of the Niagara Fishing Company rather than those 
of Captain Alexander McGregor's Huron Fishing Company. 

Before following the later career of the despoiled McGregor 
we yield to the prompting of human curiosity. How did the de- 
spoilers fare? "For some reason/' the County's historian records 
dispassionately, ". . . [the new company] did not meet with the 
same success that rewarded the labors of Captain McGregor." 

1. The licence was granted by an act of the British Parliament and the formal 
consent of Chief Mitegual of the Saugeen Indians, owners of the Peninsula and 
its islands. 

The Great Draughts of Fishes 115 

There is ample reason to believe that this is a studied understate- 
ment. When Robertson wrote his history of Bruce nearly fifty 
years ago he knew much more of the truth than he could dis- 
creetly put in print: he had learned the whole story from Murray 
McGregor. Apparently, the usurpers met with failure from the 
outset No mention even of the name of the company is found 
in the Misses Lizars* book, In the Days of the Canada Company, 
much less mention of its frustration. If it had achieved success 
one cannot imagine Dunlop and his partners keeping silent about 
it. Man is not prone to boast about his blunders. In 1848 the 
Niagara Fishing Company was glad to sell out for the paltry sum 
of eight or nine hundred pounds to Captain John Spence and 
Captain William Kennedy. These two, the founders of Southamp- 
ton, carried on the business jointly until 1851 when Kennedy 
withdrew to take part in a polar expedition that set out in search 
of Franklin. 

Dispossessed of his fishing grounds like a crofter of his lands, 
McGregor at once set himself bravely to the task of adapting 
himself to a cruel situation. He felt sure that in this vast fresh- 
water sea there were waters never yet seined channels, bays, 
deep basins, and broad inlets swarming with fish. The Indians 
assured him there were. First he tried the straits between the 
Peninsula and Manitoulin Island; then the deep waters and bays 
off the headland of Cape Croker on the Georgian Bay; finally, the 
long chain of channels and great bays along the North Shore. 
True enough, he found fish here in abundance, but the reward of 
his efforts fell so far short of that yielded by his former fishing 
grounds that it seemed little better than failure. There were other 
baffling problems too. The greater distance to good markets and 
the lagging pace of sail as compared with that of steam bit too 
deeply into an already narrow margin of profit to leave a wage 
worth the pains expended. McGregor did not starve, nor did he 
ever gain or leave a fortune. But he did leave behind him a good 
name, a name firmly attached to prominent places on the coasts 
off which he had cast his nets. Hence there is McGregor Harbour 
on the north side of Cape Croker, and on the North Shore, Mc- 
Gregor Bay, now the most famous haunt of anglers in all Lake 
Huron. On the banks of the Whitefish River near where it flows 
into this bay, which is really a deep indentation in the North 
Channel, repose the remains of this indomitable pioneer of the 
fishing industry of the Bruce Peninsula. 

The story of the catches made off the Fishing Islands after the 

116 The Bruce Beckons 

scandalous seizure of rights is in general one of progressive de- 
cline broken now and then by spurts of recovery. One of the 
spurts took place under the energetic regime of Spence and 
Kennedy, but after both of them had withdrawn from the indus- 
try the curve of decline resumed its steady drop toward zero. 
Today the lifts have become so lean that every fisherman makes 
a joke about each lift being his last. And this is not a flippant 

Eleasantry but rather his indomitable sense of humour which has 
ept him alive. The reason for the woeful drop from plenty to 
scarcity will long remain an enigma, an enigma as baffling as is 
the real cause of the extermination of the wild pigeon. We can 
still only guess. 

Yet guessing is not without profit; taken seriously it can train 
modern eyes to look beyond any natural resource itself, and, in 
advance of using it, to try to perceive a way of doing so with 
intelligence and thrift. It may be that the immensity of the first 
draughts of fishes, repeated as they were for several seasons, 
began to cut deeply into the numbers of fish wont to spawn in 
the fertile beds around the Fishing Islands. Perhaps if Captain 
McGregor had been able to retain the exclusive rights, he might 
have fared as badly as did his successors. But one cannot suppress 
otter suspicions. The spirit that fired the usurpers to an act of 
grave injustice, together with the history of the usurpers them- 
selves, leaves one with the feeling that the startling drop in the 
success of the seized fishery was caused by greed and incompe- 
tence. The desire to get rich quickly lifted all restraint; the in- 
experience of landlubbers made a bad bungle of a business that 
requires expert skill, experience, and the patient fortitude bred 
by living on great waters. All these qualities Alexander McGregor 
had. The story is an ancient one of human society: those who by 
craft wedged themselves into his place predetermined their own 

In any case, soon after this shady transaction the Fishing 
Islands became "just another" fishery of Lake Huron, good but, 
compared with its first yields, ordinary. Though the volume of 
the catch varied from year to year, the trend, viewed decade by 
decade, was steadily downward. At times the lifts were very 
heavy, so heavy indeed as to raise high hopes that Nature had 
recaptured her kindly mood of other days and was steering the 
fish into the nets in vast schools. So too there were times when, 
actually overnight, she became so miserly as to seem trying to 

The Great Draughts of Fishes 117 

drag fishermen's hearts down to levels as deep and dark as the 
bed of Lake Huron Itself. And yet, with the tenacity of fishermen 
everywhere, they clung to their calling and found that, in spite of 
the inevitable ups and downs, in the long inn there was, on 
balance, a small margin of gain. From the larger settlements with 
good harbours, such as Southampton and Kincardine, deep-water 
fishing was carried on with schooners of considerable size. In the 
fifties and sixties the names of Robert and John Rowan of Kin- 
cardine stand out; Larry Bellmore had his headquarters on one of 
the Fishing Islands, one which long carried his name but is now 
known as Wildman's. In the seventies most if not all of the fisher- 
men working off the Islands had names that revealed at a glance 
their bearers' Scottish origin or ancestry McAuley, McLeod, Mc- 
Kenzie, Morrison, and many others. And during all this period an 
evolution was going on, a steady, progressive change in the type 
of vessel employed in the trade. 

The following years were marked by another change also: a 
new race of fishermen, who were only half professional, began 
working out of such Lake Huron inlets as Stokes Bay, Johnston's 
Harbour, and Tobermory, a race who were part of the time 
farmers or trappers or lumbermen and the rest of the time at 
least during spells of really good fishing fishermen. They came 
on the scene at sundry times during the eighties and early nineties. 
Hawke, Golden, McLay, Smith, Davis, Belrose, Hopkins, Simpson 
these are some of the names of those who gave the breed its 
distinctive stamp. And a virile stock they were, adept in handling 
small sailing craft in the most varied and moodiest of waters. 
Having to adjust themselves quickly to the manifold conditions 
of the seasons, of forest and soil, of wind and wave, of reef and 
shoal, they became extraordinarily versatile and adaptable. Their 
bearing and their manner of speech were those of fishermen the 
world over, on salt seas and on fresh alike, always suggestive of 
calm judgment and inner poise. There is something in the daily 
sight of vast expanses of water that nurtures fine qualities like 
these. Long since has the original stock of the breed passed on; 
in some of their progeny one can see today a measure of their 
finer traits. The passing of that first generation happened to take 
place at the time when the gas-boat was seen to be a practical 
form of craft and not merely a toy. Its ability to thread its way 
among the devious channels of the Huron coastal waters was to 
spell the doom of sail and steam for commercial fishing. 

118 The Bruce Beckons 

In the career of one man we can see the life of the fishermen 
of The Bruce at a certain stage of their industry and trace the 
transitions through which it passed. In 1880 at the age of nineteen 
William Simpson, a native of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, 
settled in the bush near Toberaiory. Since at that time there was 
no road leading to this peninsular John o' Groats he travelled by 
steamboat, his transport being none other than the new but luck- 
less Jane Miller, whose tragic story has been told elsewhere in 
these pages. 1 

The first winter Simpson spent with his father in the forest. 
The native trees of commercial value that grew in the area were 
hard maple, yellow birch, beech, red and white pine, white cedar, 
hemlock, spruce, and balsam. There was also a good deal of red 
oak, but as its wood is of inferior quality it was at first left un- 
touched. The Simpsons, strange as it may seem now, during that 
winter cut nothing but maple, converting huge trees into cord- 
wood to feed the hungry furnaces of the steamers that touched at 
Tobennory on their way from or into the Georgian Bay. Less than 
ten years ago Captain Simpson told a friend that his memory of 
the massive maples was the most vivid of all the pictures of his 
early life that he carried into old age: even still, he said, the 
mere thought of having to reduce to die dimensions of cordwood 
a trunk three feet through and a hundred feet tall, made him 
tremble. The other kind of wood in great demand was cedar. In 
the course of many years the Simpsons took out of the bush 
thousands upon thousands of posts and railway ties. These were 
shipped by water, first from Big Tub, and later from Little Tub on 
which Tobennory at last made up its mind to grow. For twenty- 
two years William Simpson lumbered in this region. 

However, during the larger part of this period he spent the 
months of summer and autumn in fishing. In the season of 1881 
Big Tub was made the headquarters of fishing activities at the 
head of the Peninsula, when a number of fishermen moved their 
camps here from Flowerpot and Half Moon islands. It was in that 
same year that Simpson joined the guild. The general practice 
was to bring catches to Big Tub, salt them, pack the fish into 
100-pound bags, and deliver to a professional shipper, Gilbert 
Mclntosh, to be conveyed to Meaford. Two years later Mclntosh 
shifted the seat of his business to Little Tub. 

Not long afterward another change took place, one of inter- 
national import and of a kind common to those of the Great Lakes 

I. See pp. 52-6. 

The Great Draughts of Fishes 119 

that are shared by Canada and the United States: Mclntosh, the 
Canadian middleman, gave over his business to a great Chicago 
house which deals in fish on a continental scale. This is one more 
illustration of the powerful influence exerted upon Canada's 
economic life by her rich and powerful next-door neighbour. To- 
day the influence continues though the effects are different in 
detail. The fish now go out of The Tub fresh and not in salt. Well 
chilled, they are sped southward by swift motor truck over a long 
chain of firm, smooth highways. While still fresh and in prime 
flavour they are delivered to their markets most of which are 
still on the other side of the international frontier. 

One must not hastily conclude from piecemeal records of the 
fishing industry in this corner of the Great Lakes that the life of 
the fishermen was all drudgery and disappointment and always 
under the cloud of uncertainty. Their existence was time and 
again brightened by relieving dashes outbursts of humour and 
exhibitions of common human foibles. One sparkling touch was 
of a sort that flashes out in any new community anywhere, on the 
prairie or amid the woods, any community made up of people 
who have come from many different places. While still in the 
days of sail Tobermory split into two rival groups. And the matter 
that caused the cleavage was not a trivial one; on the contrary, it 
had a direct bearing upon the hamlet's chief interest. The men 
from Southampton claimed that their type of sailboat, one with 
a square stern and a large wooden centreboard, was without 
question the only one suited to those waters. With equal heat and 
earnestness the men from Meaford championed the sharp stem 
and a centreboard of iron. While the rival factions spun out their 
debate unduly, something of moment was hatching, something 
which at this late hour recalls to mind a fable of Aesop. As the 
two men of that tale wrangled over the oyster which each claimed 
as his own, a third party slipped in, gave each of the others a 
shell, and took the meat for himself. While the rivals in The Tub 
were haranguing, a new type of vessel, the steam tug, quietly 
entered their waters and began the long process which ended in 
the banishment of the last shred of sail. This too had its day and 
in time had to make way for the ubiquitous gas-boat, or, as some 
old-timers dubbed it in futile derision, the "contemptible sea 
skunk." Today in the region of The Bruce you can count the 
number of fishing steam tugs on the fingers of one hand; on merit 
the "sea skunk" is now supreme. 

But after all what's the use of this supremacy now? Through 

120 The Bruce Beckons 

the unremitting draughts made for over a century and a quarter 
upon the vast store of fish in Lake Huron, the total weight of each 
year's catch has dwindled, and the roster of fishing crews and 
craft has become pitifully short. The crews, now alarmed, franti- 
cally ask why a once profitable trade has collapsed. For many 
years they have loudly bewailed the unfortunate situation, but 
only recently have they seriously cast about them for real causes. 
A department of government has long had to defend itself 
against their charge that the reason for the industry's plight was 
failure to put adequate curbs upon fishing in the region. Without 
doubt there was right on both sides. The next scapegoat was the 
Atlantic smelt. The fabulous powers of this introduced fish to 
multiply and spread was the cause, fishermen insisted, of the 
destruction of herring and whitefish spawn on every spawning 

bed. No, they could not prove it, but Then attention shifted to 

the sea lamprey which has slowly invaded the Upper Lakes until 
it now is counted in myriads; its leechlike manner of attaching 
itself to other fish is notorious. But when the fishermen began 
calmly to review the havoc wrought by smelt and lamprey on 
the grand scale of a whole lake with its billions of fishes, they 
were not sure that they had put their finger on basic causes. 

Yet all this searching was far from futile. It has at last brought 
about a practical, voluntary alliance between government and the 
Canadian fishing industry of the Great Lakes. After many years 
of anxious parley government and industry are jointly employing 
the most modern methods of ascertaining facts and are endeavour- 
ing to discover a way that will lead to salvage and restoration. 
They have entrusted the search to the patient spirit, skilled hands, 
and penetrating vision of the scientist. But to recover and to 
restore will not be enough. Until men learn from experience never 
again to be guilty of such acts of prodigality as have sullied their 
record on Lake Huron their faith in the future cannot but be 
uneasy and insincere. 

But why this lamentable lag in the powers of nations to learn? 
The reason lies, I think, in man's habit of looking upon the past 
as something that is gone. Absurd! As long as the effects of the 
past are still a factor in our way of life, the past, for good or for 
ill, is still here. As a sage character in a recent tale reminds us: 
"The past hasn't gone anywhere. There's no place for it to go to." 

Chapter 11 



*VEN the Garden of Eden had its serpent. Whether it was 
I physically as well as morally venomous, the sacred narrative 
jdoes not say. But Eden is not alone in this distinction. At 
least one other garden shares it. Not long ago a journalist declared 
that Ontario is not only the garden of Canada but a veritable 
Garden of Eden. Nor did he pause here, but added, with all the 
earnestness of parochial loyalty: "In this beautiful garden of 
Ontario there are no venomous snakes." Thus with a single patri- 
otic breath he blew away the last of the barriers which, during 
World War II, had been holding back the incoming tide of tourist 
traffic. Little did he realize that before the summer was past, at 
least one traveller was to be disillusioned. 

The scales of ignorance were rudely brushed from the visitor's 
eyes one day when, sauntering along a woodland path near the 
Lake Huron shore of The Bruce the rock garden planted north- 
ward in our provincial paradise he beheld a rattlesnake lying 
across his way. The shock struck him dumb. However, assured 
that the specimen before him belonged to the smaller of the two 
native species of the same family, he soon regained his full powers 
of speech in the utterance of eloquent phrases of gratitude to his 
Maker. Upon being told that the larger species had in historical 
times never been seen nearer The Bruce than the Niagara Escarp- 
ment at Waterdown, he recovered his normal poise. Later that 
evening before a safe indoor fire he listened, with the rapt atten- 
tion one gives to a new-found theme, to a long recital on rattle- 
snakes in Ontario, a recital composed partly of the tales of early 
explorers and colonists and partly of personal experience told by 
some of his comrades of the fireside circle. 

But at the outset let us be clear about this fact: The Bruce is not 
the only part of southern Ontario in which rattlesnakes are a 
feature of native wild life. The first Europeans to visit the region 
found two distinct species of these reptiles. One was quite large, 


122 The Bruce Beckons 

a true Crotalid related to the Diamond Back, which sometimes 
was nearly six feet long and as thick as a man's arm. Happily for 
the traveller and the settler this was rare and belonged to only a 
few localities the Escarpment near Hamilton, the Niagara Gorge, 
Point Pelee, and the islands of western Lake Erie. This species, 
now known as the Timber or Banded Rattler, still lives on in the 
beautiful Niagara Glen below the Whirlpool. 

The other rattlesnake of Ontario is much smaller, seldom ex- 
ceeding thirty inches; a friend who lives in The Bruce once told 
me of killing a monster of thirty-nine inches. For this species the 
colonists had many names: the best-known of these are Massa- 
sauga, and Black, Little Gray, and Little Swamp Rattler, all of 
them still used in one region or another. The scientific name is 
significant and interesting: Sistrurus catenatus catenatus. The 
sistrum was a musical rattle used in the worship of the Egyptian 
goddess Isis; oupa is the Greek for tail; hence rattletail. The Latin 
catenatus means chained and refers to the chainlike markings that 
extend along the reptile's back. The basic colour of the body is 
blackish-brown clouded with dull yellow; the belly is black. 

The Massasauga, as we shall from now on term the species, is 
indigenous over a vast territory of northeastern America from 
eastern Kansas to Manitoulin Island. The earliest travellers knew 
it on both sides of Lakes Ontario and Erie, along the Niagara and 
Detroit, around Lake St. Glair, at the head of the St. Clair River, 
in most parts of upper Lake Huron, especially the Bruce Peninsula 
and the eastern shore of Georgian Bay. While the chief haunts of 
the Massasauga are the shores of these larger bodies of water it is 
known also in various places inland. Within recent years examples 
have been taken near Bala and Gravenhurst in Muskoka District 
and in Minto Township, Wellington County. Three years ago I 
saw a specimen that had been killed near Newbury, thirty-five 
miles southwest of London, after it had bitten a child on the arm. 
Fortunately the child recovered; there is no known record of 
death resulting from the bite of a Massasauga. Naturally, the 
spread of settlement in Ontario has greatly reduced the numbers 
and range of this reptile. The thought should be enough to put our 
minds at ease. 

I recall as if it were an event of last week my first experience 
with a Massasauga. Our family spent the summer of 1898 on the 
island of Minnecoganashene, which lies ten miles north of Pene- 
tanguishene. One evening at twilight as I was climbing the rocky 

The Serpent in the Garden 123 

path leading from the dock to the house, I was halted by a weird 
sound rising from somewhere a few steps before me. Peer as I 
might I could see nothing to cause it. Yet it continued without a 
pause. A pace or two to my right was a dampish depression in the 
granite carpeted with a shaggy patch of grass and weeds, and over 
this hung a branch of a Juneberry bush. My first thought was that 
a cicada had fallen from the branch into the tangle below and 
was struggling to get free. I bent forward to see what was there. 
From a tuft of grass a gaping mouth shot toward me. Even if I 
had not drawn my head back the swift thrust would have fallen 
short of my face by inches. When my wits came back I realized 
that an ancient wish had just been fulfilled: at last I had seen what 
I had long been looking for a rattlesnake in Ontario. With a boat- 
hook that had been hurried to me from the dock I combed the 
mat of herbage and dragged the snake out to his doom. 

The other day during a spell of desultory reading my eye fell 
upon a passage that reminded me of my first rattler, a passage in 
which the late W. H. Hudson describes the sound of the rattle- 
snake in almost exactly the terms I used in my boyhood: it re- 
sembles, he wrote, "muffled cicada music/* This is more accurate 
than Galinee's comparison: "a sound like a quantity of melon or 
gourd seeds shaken in a box." 

At least twice in later years I came into really intimate contact 
with Massasaugas, in each instance inadvertently stepping upon a 
large specimen. Once as I was hunting for marsh plants along the 
sedgy borders of a shallow bay on tie Lake Huron side of the 
Bruce Peninsula, a Massasauga happened to be prowling for frogs 
in the same place. His path and mine crossed. At the very moment 
of our meeting, without knowing it and with an uncanny precision 
I planted a heavily booted foot squarely on the middle of the 
snake's body. Not a single note of warning had he sounded, so 
quickly had I come upon him. But as soon as my boot pinned him 
down his tail began to vibrate furiously. Yet, strangely enough, 
the sound I heard seemed to come from a distance. Bewildered I 
looked about me and asked my companion: "Where's that ratderF*" 
Putting his hand to his ear he swung slowly around in a circle to 
detect the source of the sound. After a few moments of intent 
listening he stood still, looked directly at me and in a tone of 
mingled perplexity and anxiety declared: "That buzz is coming 
straight from you/* One glance downward was enough. There 
beneath the thick sole of my larigan writhed a Massasauga well 

124 The Bruce Beckons 

over two feet long. One end of it was rattling madly while the 
other struck viciously but vainly against the tough boot-top. But 
even as I watched, the illusion continued, for the sound still 
seemed to come from the dense alder thickets behind us. The 
experience taught me, as a rover of the wild lands in that region, 
always to stop short the instant I heard a rattler s signal Not until 
eye and ear working together have precisely determined its 
source should one budge even an inch. After that one may suit 
action to sight. 

Although Massasaugas are usually found in swampy depressions 
within areas of limestone or of granite, sojnetimes they appear in 
quite unexpected environments. Once I caught one swimming 
in the water half way across the full expanse of Stokes Bay. I was 
loath to halt so adventurous a creature. Its effort to reach a new 
territory illustrates one of the ways which the Massasauga must 
have used in spreading his kind over the land during the long ages 
that preceded the coming of men. Time and again I have come 
upon one lying at full length on the summit of a limestone ridge 
in the blazing sun. This seemed to be very strange, since, accord- 
ing to common opinion, snakes cannot stand direct, hot sunlight 
for more than a few minutes at a time. Hudson observes that 
"snakes are seen coiled up when they are at home; when travelling 
and far afield, they lie as a rule extended at full length, even when 
resting and they are generally resting." Doubtless the snakes I 
saw were wayfarers taking snatches of rest while passing over 
ridges that separate one boggy spot from another. 

All I have seen and heard of the Massasauga confirms the belief 
that -under normal conditions it is far from being aggressive except 
in its search for the small forms of animal life that it feeds upon 
mice, young frogs and toads, and grasshoppers. I know of only one 
instance where it has been seen to assume the offensive in threaten- 
ing a human being. The witness of this rare occasion was the 
teacher of a rural school in The Bruce who often goes with me on 
my hunts for plants. One June day he was gathering flowers near 
the lake shore with two of his younger pupils, both of them lads 
under ten. By chance, one of the boys who was walking ahead of 
his companions almost trod on a pair of Massasaugas. Enraged at 
the intrusion, one of the pair, presumably the male, abruptly left 
his mate and darted toward the youngster who only by nimble 
dodging escaped from the attacker. The teacher's post factum 
comment discreetly made out of the hearing of his tender wards 

The Serpent in the Garden 125 

was distinctly to the credit of the race of rattlesnakes: "Who can 
deny that chivalry still lives upon earth?" 

Why has Nature evolved the rattle? The question has never 
been finally answered. The late Dr. Thomas Barbour, the famous 
zoologist of Harvard, has offered an answer that seems to be more 
than ordinarily plausible. It is certainly not to warn away the 
snake's prey, he says, for the breed knows no such altruism; nor to 
warn man, for he is relatively a newcomer to America and was not 
a wholesale threat to reptiles. Probably then, Barbour suggests, it 
was to warn the wide-ranging bison. Ancestors of this animal do 
"fulfil these conditions, and we know there were still earlier bisons, 
for their fossil remains have been found." The hoofs of the bison 
must have been a source of danger to the snake and the bite of the 
snake enough of a bane to the bison to cause Mm, if he were 
warned, to shy away from the snake. The rattle supplied the 
warning. That the sound is not a warning among the snakes them- 
selves has been proved: the rattlesnake is deaf to its own rattle. 

That snakes hypnotize their prey is a belief common to all lands 
where snakes exist. On one occasion in The Bruce my daughters 
and I had reason to wonder whether it is really true. While search- 
ing on hands and knees for Coral Root orchids under a dense stand 
of spruces we noticed ten or eleven feet ahead of us a full-grown 
chipmunk standing stock still. He was not making a single one of 
the quick nervous little movements the chipmunk is wont to make; 
he neither jerked his head nor flicked his tail. We halted. He seemed 
quite unaware of our presence. What held him there? Nothing 
that we could see in the dim light that filtered through the screen 
of needles above us at least at first But shortly, and in the very 
same instant, we all spied the same thing. Perfectly camouflaged 
against the woodland floor of spruce crumble and rotting sawdust 
lay a motionless eighteen-inch Massasauga facing the motionless 
chipmunk. His raised head was two feet from the rodent, yet too 
far away for him to take the chance of striking. However, it was 
only too obvious that the snake was awaiting the opportunity of 
doing so, and it was equally obvious that his ambition was futile, 
for if he killed the chipmunk witK an injection of venom he could 
not possibly stretch Ms marvellously elastic jaws wide enough to 
swallow him. But perhaps just like many a human gunner or 
angler he was hunting merely for the fun of the thing. At any 
rate, whatever process was going on in the mind of the snake, then 
and there we three human observers came to the conclusion that, 

128 The Bruce Beckons 

if a snake's power to fascinate prey is only a myth, the original 
author was not wholly without warrant for believing that he was 
putting forth a truth. . . . But all things come to an end. Suddenly 
the chipmunk came to himself, whisked his tail, and darted away 
into the woods. The snake's disappointment was unfeigned: the 
angry way in which he flung his head and body about was nothing 
else than profanity without words. 

Although over the years I have learned that one need have little 
fear of the Massasauga, yet I have never cast all caution aside. But 
such is the perversity of my nature that on one occasion I almost 
welcomed an encounter with a robust representative of its tribe. 

In June, 1934, I had the honour of conducting a large party of 
North American botanists on a visit to the Bruce Peninsula. On 
arriving there we put up at the Tamarac Club for the night. After 
the evening meal the guests expressed the wish to tramp to a 
nearby glacial bog-lake where there was a gorgeous display of the 
Queen Lady Slipper. I offered to guide them, but on one condi- 
tion: that each person must either wear high boots or protect his 
ankles and shanks in some other way. My zeal to ensure safety, 
while openly approved doubtless, for politeness' sake was, I felt, 
privately found to be amusing as just a spinsterish whim on my 

In an extended file we trudged along an old lumber-trail to a 
break in the jungle of spruce and fir where the narrow path to the 
lake began. One enterprising visitor, in his ardour to be first, 
rushed ahead to the opening. But just as he reached it he threw 
up his hands, shouted loudly, and stopped short. Before him, ex- 
tended at full length across the path, was an exceptionally large 
Massasauga. Its link-like chain of markings of brown and black 
showed up with startling distinctness against the light gray of the 
limestone slab on which it lay. At the intrusion the snake drew 
itself into an S-loop, began rattling loudly and waving its head 
threateningly. As if turned to stone the whole party stood in their 
tracks. In that tense moment only five of those zealous botanists 
found that they loved orchids more than they feared Massasaugas. 

In a minute or two we managed to guide the snake into the 
gaping mouth of a large paper bag which he soon discovered to 
be a fatal blind alley. We took him to the Club and killed him, 
gingerly throwing the body out on a conspicuous flat rock in 
front of the club house. On measuring it we found it to be much 
longer than the average thirty-two inches. In the middle of the 

The Serpent in the Garden 127 

carcass was a huge bulge whose contours, clearly sketched on the 
tautly drawn skin, were obviously those of a frog twice as broad 
as the creature that had gulped it down. The company lingered 
about the prey until darkness hid it from sight. It was easy to see 
that the feelings of the observers were of a mixed order. Every- 
body was manifestly conscious of a sense of relief. As for myself I 
was alone in suppressing an unholy impulse to shout exultingly: I 
told you so! And believe it who wiU I can truthfully state that 
the chaste silence of the night was humbly respected. 


On two counts it is hard for anyone who has once seen Spring 
Creek the Spring Creek we crossed north of Stokes Bay on our 
way to Tobermory to forget its clear waters and its wild wood- 
land setting. In the first place, its apparent promise of full creels of 
speckled trout makes one hanker for the excuse to come back to it 
soon and try one's luck. In the second place, its local name, Rattle- 
snake Creek, rouses in strangers an odd curiosity to explore the 
course of the stream and see if the name really fits. That it does 
fit I proved beyond cavil a quarter of a century ago: on my very 
first tramp up the swampy flats, where the creek empties into 
Middle Boat Cove, I came upon no less than four Little Swamp 
Rattlesnakes, or Massasaugas, in the space of ten minutes. The 
people of the region have named the stream most aptly. 

Steve Bradley of Stokes Bay called himself a farmer; like many 
of his neighbours on the land he also fished at sundry times, fre- 
quently working out of Boat Coves. But Ms farm, I fear, was 
chiefly a blind: he found this sheltered little haven a better place 
in which to carry on his private avocation, a sideline which for 
success required a scene quite "exempt from public haunt/' For 
Bradley, Boat Coves was perfect. The focus of his labours here 
was a spring of pure, cold water bubbling out of the rocky bank 
of the valley a short distance up the Creek. It was like an ancient 
stronghold in that it was defended, and that doubly: by a dense 
belt of cedars, and, from spring to early fall, by an unseen body of 
living guardians. The latter defence was none other than the host 
of Massasaugas that infested and still infests the approaches to 
the concealed woodland fastness. Though a rabble this force was 
as good as an ordered army. 

In the midst of the cedars Steve built him a still. A crude affair 
it was, a curious complex of tubes and coils and ancient tin con- 

128 The Bruce Beckons 

tainers rescued from sundry junk-heaps, but nevertheless a con- 
traption which, thanks to the steady flow of cold spring waters and 
the direction of its ingenious maker, did well the work it was 
intended to do. Later, Bradley built a log shanty near the mouth 
of the creek; the remains of its foundation are still to be seen. This 
contained several small rooms to serve as living quarters and 
we venture to guess temporary storage space. Bradley's husky 
daughter, Mag, was installed as chatelaine of the establishment. 

That Mag was thus made an accomplice in crime never entered 
Steve's one-track mind; a companion in trouble, perhaps, but 
nothing worse. The truth is that Steve fancied himself a rather 
brave fellow, one of the few who have spunk enough to resist a 
most objectionable regimentation of society. He was really a bold 
exponent of free enterprise, one with the fine qualification of 
having enough sporting instinct to accept high risks for higher 

For several months all went well, indeed, very well, according 
to one point of view. Bradley welcomed with glee the swelling 
volume of his income, while his ultimate customers were far from 
disdaining even so raw a poteen as his clandestine still poured 
forth. Trade was as brisk as it was risky. In order to keep die site 
of his amateur distillery hidden from everybody, the artful 
operator made a point of conducting all sales of his product as far 
away from his headquarters as possible. Every ounce he delivered 
in person to his pedlars. He was supremely confident that the battle- 
ments of precautions and rattlesnakes that begirt him roundabout 
were quite impregnable. Apparently he knew nothing of the old 
adage: "It takes a thief to catch a thief," If he did know it he was 
not astute enough to see that by the same token the most likely 
person to trail a bootlegger is another bootlegger. 

In his blissful cocksureness Bradley did not notice that a few 
chinks were being forced in his defences from without. First one 
and then another of his pals picked up short stretches of his trail 
toward the bush. Piecing these together at leisure they finally, by 
means of a rough and ready reckoning known to bushmen, divined 
the secluded tract to which the trail led. 

In the meantime the police had noticed enough irregular be- 
haviour in the populace of the region to become suspicious. It 
soon became apparent to them that a stream of something which, 
though clear as water, was nevertheless not water was flowing 
southward from the forest of Rattlesnake Creek. But try as they 
would for several weeks to narrow the source down to one spot 

The Serpent in the Garden 129 

they made no progress whatsoever. They worked on without 
taking a single soul into their confidence. At times they were sure 
they had come upon the right trail, but every time they lost it 
a few rods inside the forest boundary. At last they decided to play 
the role of Brer Rabbit and "lay low." Their shrewd patience paid 
well. The powerful spirits of illicit stills have their own way of 
disclosing the f ountainheads from which they spring. The potency 
of the Spring Creek Moonshine loosed the tongues of pedlar and 
imbiber alike. Both, freed of the gag of restraint, told the world all 
they knew as well as much that they didn't know. But there was 
just enough in their babbling to put the foot of the law on the 
right track. Two special constables were detailed to raid Bradley *s 

One bright morning in a mid August of about seventy years ago 
the officers sailed out of Stokes Bay for Boat Coves. They had first 
made sure that Bradley had returned to his retreat Landing just 
inside the mouth of Spring Creek they moored their boat to a 
small rough dock of cedar poles. Being utter strangers to the 
terrain of this lower reach of the valley both men were shod in 
ordinary shoes that left their ankles and shanks unprotected. Inno- 
cent of danger they set out across the soggy beaver meadow and 
headed for the dense copse of cedars where they believed the still 
to be hidden. 

The tall grasses and sedges were fairly alive with leaping 
leopard frogs. But the two men were not the only creatures to 
note that fact: the Massasaugas of the valley were noting it too. 
Indeed, they were having a field day of it On their left a few feet 
ahead the officers heard a weird buzz. Stepping quickly aside to 
the right they heard a buzz of the same kind in that direction too. 
They were afraid to put one foot before the other. They stood as 
if rooted in the very middle of the beaver meadow. Any advantage 
they had hoped to gain by an unannounced approach to Bradley's 
hide-out was now utterly lost. It was they who were trapped, not 
Bradley. Only some desperate action could free them. As if 
spurred by a single will they made a dash straight to the nearest 
point on the edge of the woods two hundred yards away and took 
chances on where they placed their feet Like wild men under 
pursuit they raced across the open space. When they reached the 
heavy cedar jungle that screened the still they were breathless 
and too unnerved to be in the mood to face resistance. But what 
did that matter now? Their bird had already flown. 

They turned to Bradley's house. Somebody was at home, or had 

ISO The Bruce Beckons 

been lately, as a curl of live smoke from the chimney made clear. 
The officers knocked. With little delay the door was opened just 
wide enough to reveal part of a woman's face. 

"Is Mr. Bradley home?" the men asked. 

"No." There was finality in the tone. 

"Will he be back soon?" 

"No." The slit between the door and its frame was narrowed 

"May we come in and wait for him?" 

XT ** 


"Well, if you won't let us in we may have to force our way in. 
We have a warrant to search the house." 

"If you try that you'll be sorry." The uncanny confidence in the 
voice was ominous. 

Without further ado the men stepped forward as if to prevent 
the door from being slammed in their faces. But far from being 
closed the door was thrown open as if by an explosion. Before the 
visitors towered the figure of a great angry Gorgon. They saw her 
plunge her right hand deep into a tall barrel that stood close to 
the door frame. In an instant up came the hand brandishing two 
large wriggling Massasaugas and thrusting them straight at the 
officers* faces. The men were petrified as though beholding the 
head of Medusa with its tresses of writhing serpents. But it was 
for a moment only that they stood fixed like figures of stone. The 
darting heads never touched, never even grazed their target: no 
human faces ever before drew backward with such celerity. The 
owners of the faces were in no mood to parley. They had had 
enough of Massasaugas for one day nay, for a lifetime. And to 
reach their boat they had yet to run the gauntlet of Massasaugas 
through the grass. Massasaugas behind them, Massasaugas before 
them! Were men ever before ensnared in so desperate a dilemma? 
They ran as if demented, ran in the full, undiminished sense of the 
word, ran as fast as foot and lungs w T ould permit. And on their 
heels strode the Gorgon, now waving a serpent in each hand. So 
close was she that the men dare not pause an instant to loose then- 
boat. Past it they shot as on winged sandals and leaped into the 
water of the off-shore shallows. Medusa waded in after them. On 
went the pursued until the water came up to their armpits. Ig- 
nominiously they halted, turned right about face, held up their 
hands, and pleaded for mercy. 

"All right," screamed the brawny guardian of home and father. 

The Serpent in the Garden 


The "Gorgon" 

"But don't you dare come ashore. I'll shove your boat over to you. 
And get out o' here as fast as the wind will take you/' No man ever 
obeyed a woman's behest more gladly and with greater alacrity 
than these two gallant servants of the law. As they floated out on 
the cove they realized with a relief beyond words that it was 
water, and not marsh grass and Gorgon's tresses, that was waving 
beneath them. 

To headquarters the officers reported without humiliating em- 
bellishmentsa tale of failure. If they thus misjudged their own 
effort one now knows why and can condone the mistake. The truth 
is that they did not fail. Though the law failed to seize Bradley's 
person it did put an end to his business, at least in that part of the 
world* Now that the law knew the scene of Ms lawless toil he saw 
that the jig was up. Shrewdly and quietly, like his own spirits, he 
evaporated from the Peninsula, leaving no address behind. 

But both father and daughter did leave behind something of 
note: a repute that lived long in the half -legendary, half-factual 
history of the region. In the annals of Lake Huron shipping Brad- 
ley will be remembered as the man 1 who in 1895, along with a 
brave comrade, brought safely into Boat Coves Captain Silver- 
sides and the whole crew of the wrecked Severn. Perhaps it was 

1. For the reason why Bradley just missed being a hero see p. 65. 

132 The Bruce Beckons 

that valiant act that led some of the recent map-makers to change 
the name of Boat Coves to Bradley's Harbour. 

As for the doughty Mag, she turned out to be a highly adjust- 
able character: she converted her skill in taming rattlesnakes into 
a profitable vocation. Perhaps you recall a travelling circus among 
whose advertised attractions was the Great Ranee, the Hindoo 
Snake Charmer? If so, you can now identify this celebrity: she 
was none other than Steve Bradley's Gorgon-like daughter, Mag, 
who with her Massasaugas stood off the law at Spring Creek one 
August day half a century ago. But the Great Ranee's snakes had 
never known the distant Orient, I regret to say: like their mistress 
they were just plain "Bruce," bom and bred in the famous 
peninsula. 1 

1. Mag Bradley died on July 10, 1954, in her 88th year, and was buried in the 
Lucknow cemetery. She was born February 28, 1867, and married in 1889. The 
event at Rattlesnake Creek took place probably in 1887 or 1888. 


The Cdypso Orchid 

Chapter 12 


THAT John Murr, the famous American apostle of conserva- 
tion, early in his career drew from a prolonged sojourn 
on the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron a measure of the 
inspiration that made him what he was, is a bit of history known 
only to a few. Among the parts of this region in which he fared 
was the Bruce Peninsula. That fact is enough to entitle him to 
space in our pages, though he was more familiar with the territory 
east of Owen Sound. It is an honour to the whole region to have a 
valid though small claim to a great name, a name that will live 
as long as the Muir Glacier of Alaska flows and the Yosemite 
Valley retains unimpaired its imposing nobility and beauty. Of 
this claim our knowledge had been scant until a friend recently 
opened the pages of an unpublished manuscript. This, written by 
one in whose home Muir lived near the Georgian Bay shoreline, 
tells of a formative stage in Muir's life about which he himself was 
strangely silent 

In the Atlantic Monthly of February, 1913, Muir ended his 
account of his boyhood and youth. Here in his own fascinating 
way he had told of his early childhood in Scotland, of his family's 
migration to Wisconsin when he was eleven, of the many inven- 
tions he had made at home in his teens, and, finally, of his life and 
thoughts during his student days in the University of Wisconsin. 
When this period came to a close in the summer of 1863 John Muir 
stood on a hill overlooking Madison and lovely Lake Mendota and 
bade farewell to his "blessed Alma Mater." In the last sentence of 
his story he revealed the ambition even before it was really for- 
mulated in his mind the ambition which, like a river in continuous 
flood, was to carry him through life: "But I was only leaving one 
university for another, the University of Wisconsin for the Univer- 
sity of the Wilderness/' 

After that notable declaration there is a gap, measured in years, 


136 The Bruce Beckons 

in what Muir tells about himself. This extends from the farewell 
to Alma Mater to the summer of 1866. That so notoriously frank a 
man should suddenly seal his lips has long caused many to wonder. 
In 1947 his biographer briefly and reluctantly hints at the solution 
of the enigma. It is now known that Muir's long silence was not 
unrelated to his absence from his own country while she was en- 
gaged in a great war. 

When Muir left Madison in 1863 to return to his home in 
Portage, Wisconsin, his spirit was in a turmoil. His supreme desire 
was to make his life one of signal service to his fellow-men; he 
felt he could best achieve that end by becoming a physician. So 
he planned to enrol in the autumn in the Faculty of Medicine of 
the University of Michigan. But where was he to get the money? 
The question worried him. But something else worried him more: 
he was not yet certain that his love of medicine was greater than 
his love of the wilderness. Of great moment, too, was the pos- 
sibility that he might be drafted into military service. The upshot 
was that he spent much of the summer, autumn, and winter of 
1863-4 in exploring the wilds of Wisconsin and in scraping to- 
gether money to support him in his projected course of study. 
During these months many young men of the region were going 
to Canada to escape the draft. This Muir manfully refused to do. 
He waited until the draft had taken place before making his deci- 
sion. It came about that his number was not drawn. In the relative 
calm of spirit that followed Muir took advantage of the chance to 
read his own mind. By March 1, 1864, he felt he knew which had 
the greater claim on his affection, medicine or the wild: for the 
time being the wild had won him over. On that day he set out, 
apparently with his brother Dan, who was a minor, on a long 
casual trek that led them on and on into the part of the "Canadian 
wilderness" that borders on the Georgian Bay. 

When the Muir boys left their home town of Portage on an 
eastbound train John was within a few weeks of his twenty-sixth 
birthday. From several extant descriptions of him it is easy to 
make up a picture of him at that age. He was a fine figure of a 
man, six feet tall and straight as an arrow. His chestnut brown 
hair hung down to his shoulders. He wore a long ungroomed 
beard which was quite in keeping with the state and style of his 
clothes. He walked with the long tireless lope of an Indian on a 
forest trail. A fellow-student called him "a storage battery of 
energy, encased in flexible, elastic steel." Thus, plus something 
added by the wear of four months in the bush, John Muir must 

John Muir Was Here 137 

have appeared to Ms Canadian hosts when they admitted him to 
their hearths and hearts. 

Just where John and Dan left the easy way of the rails to step 
out on to the rough trails of northern Michigan is recorded no- 
where. We do know, however, that after a few weeks of trudging 
they made their way into Canada, crossing, presumably, from the 
Michigan "Soo" to the Canadian "Soo" over the St. Mary's River. 
Thence they strode eastward on the mainland. In their search for 
plants they hopped over to St. Joseph's Island and afterward went 
on to ManitonlirL At that season of the year when nothing green 
was left except the evergreens the young men's observations must 
have been limited to trees; these could easily be identified by their 
needles and winter buds. 

Though no positive word survives stating that the Muirs crossed 
the fifteen-mile strait from Manitoulin to the northern tip of the 
Bruce Peninsula, those who know the region well cannot but 
conclude that they did. It is absurd to think that at that time of 
the year they tramped all the way around the east side of the 
Georgian Bay a formidable journey of over three hundred miles 
to enter the Peninsula from the south. The label on the first plant 
the Muirs took on the south side of the Georgian Bay is dated 
April 20, 1864; the place is somewhere in Simcoe County. 

It was on the southern border of this same county that one 
evening late in June John Muir had one of the most momentous 
experiences of his life. While looking for a sheltered nook in which 
to spend the night outdoors he suddenly came upon the first speci- 
men of the beautiful little Calypso orchid he had ever seen. For 
years he had sought to find one, but, timid shrinking thing that it 
is, it seemed, as if purposely, to have eluded him. Now against a 
perfect green background of bog moss it held up its dainty white 
and mauve head for his eyes to feast upon. Of the entrancing 
vision he himself wrote: "Hunger and weariness vanished, and 
only after the sun was low in the west I plashed on through the 
swamp, strong and exhilarated as if never more to feel mortal 
care." 1 That these words sprang from the depths of Muir's being 
his biographer makes clear. Long years afterward he "recalled the 
two supreme moments of his life. One was when he found Calypso 
blooming alone in a Canadian swamp. The other was his meeting 
with Emerson." 2 

1. Liimie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (New 
York: Alfred Knopf, 1945), p. 93. 

2. Ibid., pp. 146-7. 

138 The Bruce Beckons 

The second account of the Muirs in this territory comes from 
two persons who became almost brothers to the young pilgrims- 
William and Peter Trout. From Peter's handwritten story, now 
spread before me "What I Know of John Muir" and from 
William's published reminiscences 1 we learn much of John and 
Dan Muir's sojourn and rambles amid the hills, valleys, woods, 
and bogs of the Georgian Bay country. 

Father Trout had built a sawmill and wood-working factory io 
a gorge of the Bighead Biver not far upstream from Meaf ord, Grey 
County, where its waters empty into the Bay. By the Muirs* time 
he had retired from business and had entrusted the direction of 
the work to his elder son William. With the latter worked Peter 
and a partner of the name of Jay. It is only fitting that from this 
point onward we allow William and Peter to take up the thread of 
the story every now and then and together tell it, now in the voice 
of one, now in that of the other. With a little editing the two 
narratives can be blended into one. 

It was in the month of August, 1864, Peter Trout relates, that 
one Saturday evening about four or five o'clock, a man came 
along who was looking for work and seemed anxious to get it. As 
I was not busy at the time we sat down on a sawlog and I asked 
some questions; who he was, where he was from, and so forth. He 
told me that he came from Wisconsin and that his name was Dan 
Muir; and that he had just come from Owen Sound, twenty miles 

From what I learned from Dan, says Peter, he and his brother 
John started out on a botanizing tour in northern Wisconsin. They 
were collecting botanical specimens which they pressed and put 
in the frames they were carrying on their backs. I also understood 
that they botanized through northern Michigan, but of that I am 
not very sure. They had specimens from St. Joseph's Island, Mani- 
toulin Island, and the peninsula between Lake Huron and the 
Georgian Bay. At Owen Sound, it seems, their money gave out 
and Dan went ahead to look for some chance to replenish their 
store. He came to the mill, with the result I have described. 

I was very favourably impressed with him, continues Peter, 
although his clothes were badly worn and shabby-looking. I told 
him he had better stay and see my brother William whom I ex- 
pected any minute; he would know what could be done in the 
way of giving work. Shortly afterwards my brother appeared; he 

1. William H. Trout, History of the Trout Family (Milwaukee: published 
privately, 1910). 

John Muir Was Here 139 

also was favourably impressed with Dan and invited Trim to 
supper, and after supper he invited him to stay over Sunday, stat- 
ing that he would know on Monday what could be done about 
giving him work. For Dan the situation was very, much improved 
when we learned that he and his people belonged to the same 
church that we did, that is, the Disciples, or the Campbellites, as 
they used to be called, although they never acknowledged any 
such name. 

We always went to meeting on Sundays, and as there were only 
my eldest sister and brother and myself we locked up the house 
and after meeting we usually went to dinner at the farm where 
my father and mother lived. We went to the evening meeting at 
six and would get home before dark. We strongly urged our guest 
to go to church with us, but he stoutly refused because of his 
shabby appearance. He said he would go out into the woods and 
stay until we returned. He asked us to lend him a book to read; he 
selected The Testimony of the Rocks by Hugh Miller and went 
out into the woods. We found him at the house when we returned 
in the evening. Dan told us about his brother, John, and his 
wonderful clock and some of the wonderful things he had done. 
We concluded that he might be useful and so we sent for him as 
he was at that time in the neighbourhood. 

When I first saw John his appearance was no more presentable 
than his brother Dan's had been; so far as his clothes were con- 
cerned he would be called "a sight to look at" But this shabby 
condition did not last long, for the boys had better clothes and 
were not long in getting them. After that we all went together to 
meeting every Sunday. 

The two visitors stayed at the Trout Hollow mill for a short 
time, it seems, and then set out southward together to hunt plants 
in what was left of the summer. They rambled without a plan to 
guide them, turning this way or that according to their changing 
fancies. All that is known of their trail is gleaned from the labels 
on the few plants of their collection that now remain. They were 
at Niagara Falls on September 2, 1864. Then for a time they ex- 
plored the river gorge together and later at a leisurely pace 
trudged back to the miH and home near Meaford, to "den up** 
there for the winter that would soon be upon them. 

The Trout family may at first have taken this decision of the 
Muir boys to be due solely to their inability ever to be idle. But 
one day the boys received a letter from Portage. In it their parents 
commanded Dan to remain in Canada as long as the draft was 

140 The Bruce Beckons 

being enforced in the United States. At the same time, as William 
Trout notes, they urged John, being of manhood age, to stay on 
with his young brother. While John s feelings did not coincide 
with his parents* wish in that respect, yet for his mother's sake he 
complied. In the light of his behaviour early in 1864 one cannot 
but believe that this decision left him an uneasy conscience for the 
rest of his days, a feeling of mingled regret and shame that he had 
ever given anyone reason to suspect him of disloyalty. No wonder 
John Muir refrained, even long years afterward, from recording 
the strange interlude in his life which he spent amid the peace of 
alien hills and woods while vast tracts of his own country re- 
sounded with the roar of battle. 

After a parley with us (to take up Peter Trout's account again), 
the two Muirs were hired to work at the plant. Their first task was 
to help in building an addition to the shop, or rake factory, as it 


was afterwards known. John worked principally at the manufac- 
turing of rakes but spent considerable time in improving the 
machinery for making them. My brother William was a first-class 
hand at that sort of work, but for original ideas he was nowhere 
with John Muir, for the improvements he made in the machinery 
were simply marvellous. He had much to learn in the way of 
handling tools, for about all the tools he used in making his famous 
clock were a jack knife, a saw that had been made out of a corset 
stay, and a primitive kind of gimlet As would be expected, he 
learned with amazing rapidity and he has always spoken in the 
highest terms of my brother William for showing him how to use 
tools, lathes, and other machinery. 

But, as one may gather from Peter's story, this spell of inventive- 
ness had not come upon John Muir suddenly. When still a mere 
boy he had begun making, out of the odds and ends that clutter a 
farmstead, all sorts of mechanical devices. Among them he turned 
out a self-setting sawmill, water-wheels, odd locks and latches for 
doors, thermometers, hygrometers, and a barometer. Three of his 
home-made clocks became famous. The one to which Peter Trout 
alludes was the first of those designed to do extraordinary things: 
though in shape reminding one of a sawmill it could strike like an 
ordinary timepiece, indicate months and days as well as hours, 
light fires and lamps, and start stalled animals feeding at stated 
times in the morning. But the clock's supreme service was to rouse 
sleepers from their slumbers and send them forth early to their 
daily tasks. Through a combination of levers and cogs the clock 
would cause a specially constructed bedstead to throw its occu- 

John Muir Was Here 141 

pant on the floor at any desired time. And all these creations were 
for years turned out of Muir's workshop between the morning 
hours of one and six. "Five huge, solid hours," their maker would 
exclaim. When he called his supreme contraption "an early-rising 
machine" his austere father actually almost laughed at the ironic 
humour of it all. To think the young gaffer would rise so early to 
make a machine to rout him out still earlier! But to John the 
machine was life. By selling trick bedsteads tripped by ordinary 
dollar clocks he paid some of his expenses at university. In the 
dormitory he used one himself until his fellow-students rose in 
rebellion at being wakened at five o'clock with a crash like that 
of a collapsing scaffold. 

After John had been living with us about a month, observes 
Peter Trout, he had the famous clock and bedstead shipped to him 
from Wisconsin. These he set up in a room that he had partitioned 
off upstairs for himself and his brother Dan. I slept in it one night 
with Dan, who did not know I was there, since I got in bed after 
he was asleep. I was a long time going to sleep, but it seemed that 
as soon as I got asleep I dreamed that I was climbing a hill, and 
that the hill tipped over on top of me, and while I was hanging on 
for life I fell with a crash and found myself out on the floor. This 
was the only experience I ever had or wanted to have with John 
Muir's bed. 

In his autobiography Muir states that he rose every morning 
about one or two o'clock and worked or studied all the rest of the 
night When with us, says Peter Trout, he usually worked in the 
factory until eleven or twelve at night making some improvement. 
He would then go to his room and study for two or three hours 
longer. Four or five hours each night was about as much time as 
he spent in sleep; the balance of the twenty-four were spent in 
either work or study apparently without the loss of a minute of 
time. It has seemed to me that if he had followed along this line 
through life he would have been another Thomas A. Edison, for 
his ideas were of the most original and practical kind. 

Although the mill kept John Muir constantly busy he was always 
conscious of the tug of the wild upon him. In winter when flower 
and leaf were dead he would let his thoughts wander out of doors 
by thumbing over the sheets carrying the plants he had gathered 
in his rambles. His enthusiasm kindled a lively interest in herb and 
tree in the minds of the Trout household and of their friends. 
Plant after plant would remind John of the various strange ex- 
periences he had had in getting them; his tales held Ms hearers 

142 The Bruce Beckons 

entranced. With the bursting of the first buds of spring the young 
people took to plant-hunting as bumble-bees to red clover. Indeed, 
nature study in general became the avowed hobby of the com- 
munity, invading even the Sunday School of the local Disciples 
church. John had agreed to lead a class of boys if he himself would 
be allowed to follow the lead of his own spirit. And whither did 
he lead these juvenile charges? Why, of course, as even the gravest 
elders knew he would, away from the little meeting-house out into 
the woods, over the hills and far away. No class in nature study 
anywhere ever was given a more inspiring vision of God's ways 
with the material aspects of His world. 

But it was not always in company that John went out to hob- 
nob with his beloved plants; every now and then, with William's 
permission, he sallied forth alone, roaming up and down the wild 
glens of the rolling countryside and slogging through bogs to visit 
with the sundews, pitcher-plants, and water-loving orchids. It was 
at such times that he wrestled the hardest with the problems of his 
future that were tormenting his soul. 

In May, 1865, Dan took a job in Buffalo to earn the means of 
continuing his studies at college. The parting of the brothers, 
though intended to be brief, threw John into a state of gloomy per- 
plexity. Here he was twenty-seven years old, and yet not knowing 
what he was going to do with his life! To think his way out of the 
maze alone, in July he took a week off from the mill and spent it 
in hunting plants on both sides of the great inlet of Owen Sound. 
How far up the west side of the Sound he went we do not know: 
at the pace he was accustomed to travel he had time to go a 
number of miles north of Wiarton. Here he would revel in the 
spruce and cedar jungles where the rare Alaska orchid hides; or 
amid the damp dark-shaded limestone cliffs that are host to the 
still rarer Hart's Tongue fern. Anyway, wherever he roamed that 
week he saw about him an untold number of evidences that, ages 
before, glaciers had passed that way. Already he was as interested 
in the ways of moving ice-fields as he was in plants. Somehow this 
lonely jaunt helped brush away some of the clouds from John's 
mind, for by September he took with firmness a step which while 
not final was positively forward. Whether he was to be a physician 
or a second Humboldt, this was certain; he needed money for the 
training to be either. 

In September the Trouts offered John a contract. They proposed 
that he invent devices and make other improvements in the 

John Muir Was Here 148 

machinery designed to speed up the factory's production. They 
aimed to turn out 30,000 broom handles. They were ready to give 
John half the profits. Would he accept? John signed the contract 
and with furious energy threw his whole self into the enterprise. 
Through his ingenuity and driving power the output was doubled. 
By February of 1866 all the broom handles had been made and 
were already seasoning in storage. Half the rakes were completed 
and work on the second half was being pressed. The hour for 
reaping the gains of honest, hard labour was drawing nearer and 
John was catching glimmerings of the rosy dawn of that day when, 
freed from the student's nightmare, poverty, he could give every 
hour to preparing himself methodically for a life of service to 

But that day, that hour, were still a long way off. One stormy 
night about the first of March, 1866, as William Trout sadly tells 
us, their works took fire, and factory, mill, broom handles, rakes, 
and all were destroyed. The Trouts saved nothing but a good team 
of horses and a wagon. All of John's collection of plants, except the 
part he had already sent home, and all the profits of his dreams 
had gone up in smoke. 

There is every reason to believe that the settlement then made 
was an honourable one. The Trouts offered John $300, part in cash, 
part in personal paper. John cut the sum to $200. With the cash he 
paid his fare to Indianapolis and a job. The friendship between 
employer and employe continued unimpaired for life. "Between 
John Muir and myself," writes Peter Trout in 1915, "there devel- 
oped a kind of David and Jonathan friendship which was con- 
siderably interrupted on account of our fields being far apart, but, 
in so far as the heart's affections were concerned, this close friend- 
ship was never broken, and always awoke into new life whenever, 
or wherever, we met." 

When at last John Muir naturalist, inventor, great exponent of 
applied democracy left bench and lathe in Indianapolis to take 
up his true mission, he could have said fittingly and with deep 
feeling what he wrote later about the first great adventure of his 
life, leaving college to go out into the world. "Anyhow, I wandered 
away on a glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has 
lasted nearly fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy 
and free, poor and rich, without thought of a diploma or of making 
a name, urged on and on through endless inspiring Godful 

Chapter 13 


II was In a book that I was introduced to the Alaska Orchid, 
and it was the author himself who opened the book for me. 
Though this happy event took place in the early nineties the 
memory of it is as fresh as if it happened yesterday. At the time it 
meant much to me that the author of the little green book, 1 who 
was my teacher of botany, had, twenty-five years before in an- 
other Ontario school, taught my father also. "The proof of the 
pudding" applies to teachers as well as to the sweets of a repast. 
Father, having partaken zestfully of Henry B. Spotton's instruc- 
tion, passed on to me his proof of its high quality and thus 
whetted my appetite for the subject with which it dealt 

One day when we were intent on dissecting a certain flower, 
Spotton casually or was it by design? made a remark implying 
that orchids grew wild in Ontario. At once every ear in the class 
pricked up. Eyes flashed doubts that lips were too timid to speak. 
What? Orchids in this northern land? Beautiful orchids, we asked, 
in rose and mauve and green like those we sometimes see in the 
florists' windows? "Yes, indeed," was the reply, "many like them 
though not the same kinds. For instance, there's our tall Queen 
Lady Slipper with its large showy blooms of rose-purple and 
white; the deep rose Moccasin Flower; the retiring and dainty 
mauve Calypso and the Grass Pink of the peat bogs." Eyes opened 
wider and wider as doubt gave way to belief. The teacher, noting 
the manifest interest, adroitly led the class on to rapt contempla- 
tion of the splendours of Ontario's native orchids, and then, sure 
of having captured attention, quickly switched it to the study of 
duller and less conspicuous details which the youthful mind is apt 
to ignore. That was teaching! 

"Some of our orchids," Spotton went on 'to say, "are so much 

1. H. B. Spotton, The Commonly Occurring Wild Plants of Canada and More 
Especially of the Province of Ontario (Toronto: W. J. Gage, 1st ed. 1883, rev. ed. 


The Trail of the Alaska Orchid 145 

like grass and weeds in their greenness that one might easily 
walk over a patch of them without noticing them. But they are 
just as interesting as the brightly coloured kinds, and by far the 
plainest of them all is the most interesting. That particular 
orchid/' he said in a tone that gave us a feeling of awe, "is rare, 
very rare, just as rare in Ontario as gold is/' (Little did the good 
man suspect that in fifteen years the Ontario northland was to 
become a new Eldorado. ) "The only spot in the province where 
it grows is near Sauble Beach at the base of the Bruce Peninsula, 
It has two other homes in Canada, both of them far from here 
the solitary island of Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and, 
in the west, the Rocky Mountains from the Alaskan frontier 
southward through British Columbia to northern California. How 
did this little plant of the far east and the far west get its roots 
into this out-of-the-way comer of Ontario? It's another of Nature's 

But the good man had not yet reached what was for me the 
climax of the hour. "However/' he went on to say, "y u w ^l no ^ 
find the name of this rare plant in my book, for the very good 
reason that the man who found the specimen of it near Sauble 
Beach didn't tell me of his find till after the book came from the 
press. So I want you all to do something unusual: I want each of 
you to write this in the margin of the proper page in his copy 
ALASKAN REIN ORCHID." These words he printed on the 
blackboard in large capitals. A few minutes later that legend was 
rubbed off the board but it still stands out clear on the page of 
my memory. 

For me, from that never-to-be-forgotten hour in September, 
1892, a great quest was on, the quest of the Alaska Orchid. But 
fate willed that many years were to pass between the acceptance 
of the quest and the actual pursuit of it in the field. However, 
throughout this interval, which I spent partly on the Canadian 
prairies and partly abroad, the grip of this interest on me never 
weakened for a moment. Not until 1919 did I even set foot on any 
part of the now romantic Peninsula. When at last in that year the 
way opened I knew exactly where I would begin the quest: of 
course, in the dense, dark jungles of fir and spruce that clothe 
the long dunes of Sauble Beach, the very ground where, fifty 
years before, the Alaska orchid had first been found in central 
Canada. Surely, I should quickly come upon at least one specimen. 
Of all manner of men the plant-hunter is always the most hopeful 

146 The Bruce Beckons 

For an hour or more I crept, face close to the ground, over the 
mossy crumble of spruce needles. In my searching I came across 
several lovely little Calypsos and a few clumps of die Ram's Head 
Lady Slipper which were then in the very prime of bloom. Be- 
sides, the Lake Huron dwarf Iris had unrolled its luxuriant carpets 
over the long strip of damp sand marking the high-water line of 
the Beach. But as for the Alaska orchid my only reward was 
heartache and backache. "Let's be off at once to tie Fishing 
Islands/' I said impatiently to the friend who was with me; "the 
plant has been found there too." But not a single boatman was 
to be seen anywhere. So there we were stranded on our mainland 
for kck of a craft just as Crusoe had been on his island. Now 
after many years I know why I had failed at the outset of my 
quest: in The Brace it is not until the third week in June that the 
Alaska orchid daxes to thrust even the tip of its leaves and its 
tender spike of tiny buds noticeably above ground. I had launched 
my quest in the last week in May. 

For three summers in a row official duty gave me enough tasks 
with first claims to attention to keep me from visiting the Lake 
Huron home of the little orchid. However, in July of 1923 I again 
crossed its threshold and put up at my fishing camp, the Tamarac 
Club on Stokes Bay. There the hunt began afresh but this time 
not in ignorance. Now fully aware that a written list of the 
orchid's chief traits would not be legible in the deep twilight 
beneath the evergreens I learned all the facts by heart, and as I 
crawled along on the ground kept reciting them to myself as 
though mumbling a magic formula. The upshot of several days 
of this muttering and grubbing in the gloom was fatigue and 
bitter disappointment. During the last day of this methodical 
search I had travelled several furlongs on all fours when I came 
out of the woods on the township roadway that winds through 
the trees between Stokes Bay village and Tamarac Island. With 
dragging feet I turned toward the Club. On both sides of me was 
ideal cover for the Alaska orchid a serried army of black and 
white spruces, balsams and white cedars, posted there, it seemed, 
as if to protect a great treasure. 

While I was trudging along as in a stupor my eye chanced to 
fall upon some tall slender green spikes that overtopped the wild 
grasses and weeds on both sides of the narrow roadway just rank, 
overgrown stalks of plantain gone to seed, I thought, and passed 
on. But what kind of plantain in this corner of lie world could 

The Alaska Orchid 

148 The Bruce Beckons 

possibly attain such a height? At the question I turned back and 
of themselves my lips began mumbling. "A thin rapier-like spike 
of tiny, green flowers." Often before out of the corner of my eye 
had I seen these upstanding stems of green, but I had always been 
too stupidor too lazy to observe them closely. This time I stared 
until I knew I had missed nothing. 

Though tingling all over I steadied myself long enough to check 
details against the words of the formula which was beginning to 
show that it had some magic after all. "Flowers of unmistakable 
orchid shape." Yes, there's the typical orchid lip, and spur, too. 
"Crowded into a very narrow, elongated spike, twelve to twenty 
inches high." No doubt about the spikes and their height. There's 
not a short one in the whole patch and one is even twenty-two 
inches tall and has sixty-four diminutive green orchid blooms. 
"Flowers give off a sickening odour of stale pollen." Whether its 
source was ancient pollen or not, this noisome detail clinched 
the proof for me. How I longed to check one more point the 
soft, fleshy roots and their two small, egg-shaped bulbs. But the 
fear of sacrilege paralysed my hand. Why destroy a rare life 
when the case has been proved? As I withdrew, I casually noticed 
that I was not alone in taking an interest in the Alaska orchid; 
a number of mosquito-like flies were hovering about the green 
spikes as if seeking to alight on them. 

The thrill this good fortune shot through my whole being has 
not yet spent itself. Man knows no greater excitement than that 
of discovery. Had the plant I found been the most beautiful on 
earth the effect would have been the same. For me the experience 
was as exhilarating as was John Muir's first sight, in 1864, of the 
lovely Calypso orchid in another county of Ontario. 

In the summer of 1924 I returned to the scene of my discovery, 
intent on extending the known range of the Alaska in its "half-way 
house" between Anticosti and the Rockies. By this time knowing 
what I was looking for and where to look, I seemed to detect 
stands of it almost at will. I found them here and there under the 
cedars that line the woodland trail between Stokes Bay and 
Gauley's Bay and also along the old lumber road that skirts the 
mile-long sphagnum bog between Gauley's Bay and Greenough 
Harbour. Then ten miles north up the shore at North Boat Cove 
I came upon them behind Garney Hawkes's log shanty where we 
often eat our shore dinners. A few years later when with the late 
W. E. Saunders, the ornithologist, I was hunting for an area to 

The Trail of the Alaska Orchid 149 

set apart as a wildlife sanctuary, we suddenly found ourselves 
guilty of trampling down many fine specimens of Alaskas growing 
right on the woodland paths near Johnston's harbour. And only 
two years ago a small company of us chanced upon a very rich 
stand of the species behind the dunes of Dorcas Bay, six or seven 
miles south of Tobermory. 

In the meantime other plant-hunters 1 had caught the scent and 
were hot on the trail of the uncomely green flower. Making their 
way over the straits to Manitoulin they pursued the plant north- 
ward across the great island and thence to La Cloche Peninsula 
on the North Shore where their zeal was amply rewarded by the 
discovery of several stations. Their finds impressively demon- 
strated the great extent of the "half-way house" between the 
eastern gulf and the mountain chain of the west: from south to 
north that is, from Sauble Beach to the North Shore of Lake 
Huron the house was well over 100 miles long, no mean dwelling 
for a modest herb. 2 

The summer of 1925 I spent in Great Britain, but the quest in 
The Bruce did not suffer. One day in Scotland I happened to 
come upon an idea which for me bridged the Atlantic. While 
angling for trout in a beautiful mountain bum near Oban later 
I learned that I had innocently been poaching on a preserve of 
the Duke of Argyll my eye fell upon a tall, leafy-green orchid 
around whose flowers swarmed some gnatlike flies. Suddenly it 
occurred to me that this orchid and this species of fly might have 
a special relationship to each other. Did the plant's power to 
reproduce itself depend in any way upon the fly? I recalled the 
Yucca's dependence for fertility upon its own species of moth. 
Memory then made a leap overseas to the Alaska orchids of Lake 
Huron and I caught a vision of mosquitoes hovering about fetid 
green spikes. It was at that moment that a plan took form: on my 
return home I would transplant amid the spruces and cedars near 
the Tamarac Club enough Alaska orchids to make possible, over 
a period of years, a large-scale study of their manner of propaga- 

The scheme conceived in haste was matured in leisure. Never 
did a dictatorship draw up a five-year plan with greater care. 
The Alaska orchid garden was to be ready in the summer of 

1. Professor A. S. Pease and the late Professor M. L. Fernald, Harvard Uni- 

2. Since these words were written I have found stands of Alaska orchid on 
Cove and Flowerpot islands. 

150 The Bruce Beckons 

1937. One day during my orgy of computing a visitor favoured 
me with an unannounced call at my office; lie was an eminent 
scientist from a distant place who was making a name for himself 
and his growing botanical gardens. Here, I thought, is a rare 
chance to get advice from a real professional Ablaze with an 
ardour that forgot caution I laid my plan before the visitor. With 
a keenness that matched my own he approved every detail. He 
too was interested in The Bruce, he said, and had long wished 
to visit it with his staff of assistants. If he went there could he 
easily secure lodgings? The obvious genuineness of his interest 
quickened my hospitable inclinations. So I told him to let me 
know when he wanted to make the trip and I would then arrange 
to put him and his party up at the Club. For this simple little 
promise I was tendered elaborate thanks and a most cordial word 
of encouragement that could not but be welcome to an amateur: 
"I congratulate you on your proposed investigation of the Alaska 
orchid. The best of luck to you!" 

This pleasant chat took place in the spring of 1932. Between 
that time and the summer of 1936, part of which season I spent 
in fishing and botanizing in Northern Ireland, not a word did I 
get from my friend. Even in Ireland a reminder of my plan 
pursued me, for there in County Fermanagh I came across several 
specimens of the same kind of orchid I had seen in Argyllshire 
eleven years before. The important fact about this orchid was 
that it was haunted by what seemed to be the same kind of fly. 
In late August I returned to Canada, my mind filled with pleasant 
thoughts of The Bruce and of the execution of my plan the 
following summer. 

But a few weeks later thoughts of a very different order were 
thrust upon me. In October I received a letter whose contents 
affected me as would the bursting of a bomb. The text is imprinted 
indelibly on my memory. Here it is abridged. 

DEAR Fox: 

I have never forgotten your kind offer to provide lodgings for me at the 
Tamarac Club at any time I wished to make a botanical survey of the Bruce 
Peninsula. Only last July did I make up my mind to make the trip and to 
make it at once. En route, I motored to London to see you but to my 
regret I found that you were overseas. However, your secretary telephoned 
to the Club's president in Port Elgin and arranged with him for accommo- 
dations for me and my party. 

You will be glad to know that all of us were deeply impressed with the 
Peninsula's marvellous combination of natural wonders. We regard the ten 

The Trail of the Alaska Orchid 151 

days of our sojourn as eminently profitable. We were so fortunate as to get 
together a collection of 192 living plants, nearly half of which were splendid 
specimens of the rare Alaska Orchid which we found in a remarkably large 
station beside the roadway leading to Tarnarac Island. All of these are now 
thriving in the Botanical Gardens at home. ... All the members of my staff 
who accompanied me join me in thanking you for your generous hospitality. 

Need I quote more? The restraint now exerted upon my pen 
has no effect upon my memory. The last words of this remarkable 
message still echo and re-echo in my mind: "generous hospitality"! 
Were they meant to be as ironical as they sound? Against all my 
life's training there arises in me an unholy desire to make a secret 
visit to those distant gardens; secret, I say, for the reason that I 
fear an announced and conducted visit would be much like a 
conducted visit in Russia where the powers-that-be show the 
visitor just what they want him to seeand no more. I should 
like to sneak unseen to the plot where my precious Alaska orchids 
now repose and with my own eyes see what legend is inscribed 
on the signboard that marks their present resting-place. Does it 
say, I wonder, that they came from Anticosti? Or from the 
Rockies, or, perhaps from. . . ? 

At last, you say with a sympathetic sigh, we have come to the 
end of the trail! No, I cannot accept that word. The trail will be 
taken up again just where it seemed to be broken off and it will 
be pursued as long and as swiftly as the zest of three-score years 
and ten permits. I cannot bear to think of giving those Bruce 
mosquitoes reason to believe I could go back on them! 

Chapter 14 


HE same teacher who in my teens kindled my zeal to f oEow 
I the trail of the Alaska orchid also launched me on the quest 
I of another unusual plant of The Bruce. This, in the quaint 
words of a Welsh folktale, is none other than "the herb called 
hart's tongue/ 5 Actually this "herb" is a true fern, though at first 
glance few people would know it as such. "It is very rare in North 
America," said our teacher, "and grows among the rocks and- 
forests of the Bruce Peninsula." These words, coming from one 
who had the gift of making even the mention of cold facts inspir- 
ing, seemed almost like the command of a master. To me, at least, 
it was as if he had said, before Kipling, "Something hidden. Go 
and find it." Never for a moment did I dream how long, how 
varied, how fantastic that quest would be. 

Not until a year or two ago did I find, in its haunts in the 
Peninsula, the thing I sought so ardently. Only another naturalist 
can understand how even decades of frustration can be enjoyable. 
That quest turned out to be a veritable flying carpet. In a series 
of zigzag courses it bore me, in mind, over a large part of the 
globe, into the weird fields of folklore and primitive medicine as 
well as into the realm of scientific fact; it carried me, in fact, into 
every section of the Peninsula. For all the many years of un- 
rewarded effort I have not the slightest regret; on the contrary, 
never have I had more wholesome fun than in this protracted and 
baffling chase. 

What does this interesting "herb" look like? One can find no 
better description of it than that given by the British botanist, 
John Gerard, who brought out his massive volume, Herball, in 
London in 1597. The antique flavour of the language and spelling 
adds a touch of charm to the clarity of the passages quoted. 

The common kinde of Harts tongue, called Phyllitis, that is to say, a 
plant consisting of leaves, bearing neither stalk, floure, nor seed, resembling 
in shew a longue tongue whereof it hath been and is called in shops Lingua 


"The Herb Called Hart's Tongue' 


The Hart's Tongue Fern 

cervina, that is. Harts [deer's] tongue: these leaves are a foot long, smooth 
and plaine upon one side, but upon that side next the ground straked 
overthwart with certain long rough marks like small worms, hanging on the 
back side thereof. The root is blacke, hairy and twisted, or so growing as 
though it were wound together. ... It is green all the yeare long, yet less 
green in winter: in summer it now and then brings forth new leaves. . . . 

As one would expect, so odd a clump of herbage was thought to 
possess strange powers. Three centuries before the Christian era 
a great Greek botanist wrote that a dosage of its leaves would dis- 
solve the spleen. A famous physician of Nero's reign warned women 
not to eat them for fear of becoming sterile. John Gerard has a 
great variety of things to say about the plant, "It is of a binding and 
drying facultie," he notes. "Common Harts Tongue is com- 
mended," he advises in a bedside tone, "against the laske and 
bloudy flix: Dioscorides [the Roman physician to whom reference 
has been made] teacheth, That being drunke in wine it is a 
remedie against the bitings of serpents. It opens the hardnesse and 
stopping of the spleen and liver, and all other griefes proceeding 
from opilations or stoppings whatsoever." 

It is clear at once that these notions had their origin in folklore 
untold ages ago. It was from that source that medicine, when still 
only slightly removed from witchcraft, borrowed them. Indeed 
they lingered on in medicine long after Gerard's day, even 
crossing the Atlantic, until at length, like a spent candle, they 

154 The Bruce Beckons 

sputtered out. There Is actually a record of their last flicker in 
America. As late as 1833 the United States Dispensatory mentions 
that Hart's Tongue leaves in decoction may be used to stop bleed- 
ing and fluxes but confesses that "their properties are feeble, and 
they have fallen into neglect." The edition of 1839 states that 
"they have been superseded by more active medicines." 

However, .only a few years ago Robert Gibbings, on one of his 
rambles in the highlands of Wales, found the Hart's Tongue still 
rooted in an ancient folktale of the region. The gist of this is worth 
telling if for no other reason than to show how false ideas concern- 
ing natural objects live on through the centuries. 

Of the many lovely lakes in Wales, we are told, the most famous 
is Llyn y Fan Fach, the Lake by the Little Hill. Like other lakes it 
was the home of a beautiful fair} 7 sprite. Once, long, long ago she 
rose from the waters, went ashore, and was wooed by a mortal 
man. After a time she wedded him, bringing with her from the 
depths of the waters a rich dowry of horses and cattle. As man 
and wife, mortal and fairy settled down on a farmstead about a 
mile distant from Myddf ai. Here three fine sons were born to them. 

But all was not happy with them "ever after." Just as in a wholly 
human household unity does not always prevail, so this household 
was often divided by hasty differences over the merest trifles. The 
delicate spirit of the fairy could not endure the discord forever; 
at the third tiff over a trivial matter she fled the family hearth and 
plunged into the lake, taking her herds with her but leaving her 
sons behind. They, overcome with grief, day after day roamed 
along the borders of the lake hoping to find their mother. 

One day, to their great joy, she reappeared at a place called 
The Gate of the Physician, There she told her sons that her mission 
was to bring healing to the bodies of men. This she asked them to 
take as their calling in life. She taught them the recipes for many 
remedies and showed them the potent herbs that grew in the 
region roundabout. By dint of hard study the sons became the 
most famous healers in the land. To preserve their precious 
knowledge for those who would come after them they wrote it 
down in a book. What they wrote has been put into print by the 
Welsh Manuscript Society, The list of herbals prescribed by the 
fairy lady of the Lake of the Little Hill is long and wonderful. 
One of them in particular is of great interest to those who are 
following hard on the trail of the rare fern in the Bruce Peninsula. 

"The Herb Called Hart's Tongue" 155 

To preserve chastity. If you would always be chaste, eat daily some of the 
herb called hart's tongue, and you will never assent to- the suggestions of 
impurity. 1 

If ever any plant deserved to be called ubiquitous, it is the 
Hart's Tongue fern. It is rooted in all three major land masses 
east of the Atlantic and in some of their satellite islands. Take up 
its trail in Ireland, follow it across to Scotland, to Wales, and then 
eastward across England; there "the common harts tongue/' as 
Gerard remarks at the close of the sixteenth century, "growes by 
the way sides in great plenty, as you travel from London to Ex- 
cester, in shadowie places and in moist stony vallies and wells." 2 
Fly over the North Sea to Scandinavia, and south to the Spanish 
Peninsula, skirt the mountainous north coast of Africa, and then 
speed on to Italy and the Balkans; thence across the blue Aegean, 
over northern Persia and central Asia to the Pacific and Japan. In 
many parts of the great tract over which you have flown this 
modest herb the Hart's Tongue abounds. The length of the living 
cord thus flung across space staggers the imagination. 

But there is yet more to be said. Nature cast frayed ends of this 
cord over the Atlantic to North America. One tiny strand she 
dropped in a lonely little valley of New Brunswick; a couple of 
strands among shaded limestone outcroppings in New York State 
south of Syracuse; a mere thread in an out-of-the-way limestone 
sinkhole in Tennessee and another in a faraway corner of Mexico 
near the frontier of Guatemala. Could the distribution of anything 
seem to be more haphazard or capricious? But that is not the end 
of it. With a great flourish Nature strewed other loose ends of the 
living cord northward along the craggy, scalloped edges of the 
Niagara Escarpment in the province of Ontario. There they took 
hold in a loose chain of crannies in the dolomite of several 
counties. It is in the peninsular part of Bruce County that this fern 
is found in its greatest plenty in America. 

But the first visit I made with a friend to that land of promise 
fell far short of our dreams. With that infallible plant-guide in our 
hands our botany teacher's own textwe invaded The Bruce in 
high hopes. But alas! faith was rudely shaken. All the precious 

1. Robert Gibbings, Coming down the Wye (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 
1942), p. 25. 

2. In the Atlantic Monthly, June, 1950, p. 35, Donald Culross Peattie states 
that, since the bombing of London in World War II, Hart's Tongue fern has grown 
up in abundance in the craters and cellars. 

The Bruce Beckons 

little volume had to say of the Hart's Tongue was: "Gladed ravines 
and limestone cliffs; not very common"; just a vague, tantalizing 
generality with not one definite direction in it. No^ needle was 
ever lost more effectively in a haystack than the Hart's Tongue in 
the Peninsula's 500 square miles. So ended the first search, Ten 
years later, even with Gray's Manual as guide, the second search 
ended in the same way. 

But during this period of seeming failure progress was being 
made. From time to time snatches of good news came in from 
various niches along the Escarpment. One day the postman 
brought a parcel, postmarked Collingwood, Simcoe County, con- 
taining a fresh, green clump of Hart's Tongue. Was a third county 
now to be added to Brace and Grey? No such luck! The specimen 
though mailed at Collingwood had been found on the Escarp- 
ment above Meal ord in Grey. But the catalogue of sources was not 
to remain long static. One sunny morning a few weeks after, the 
ardent naturalist, Will Saunders, hailed me exultingly across a 
busy down-town street: "Yesterday I found Hart's Tongue north 
of Orangeville." So Dufferin came into the honours list of counties. 
In May of 1951 James Soper entered the name of Peel County. 

My first view of the Hart's Tongue growing in its native soil 
came unheralded, in a land very far from The Bruce. In August 
of 1936 I spent a fortnight in Ireland fishing and plant-hunting. 
One afternoon as I was travelling eastward in a bus through 
County Leitrim on the way from Sligo to Enniskillen I glimpsed 
on the roadside a healthy bunch of long, straplike green leaves. I 
knew them at once for Hart's Tongue. I shouted loudly enough to 
awaken the long-dead Irish kings. The driver, thinking there had 
been an accident, halted the bus abruptly; the passengers were 
given a violent jolt. As one body they turned and glared at me. 
When I leaped to the ground they looked relieved. Good riddance, 
they seemed to say; upon my reappearance moments later they 
made no attempt to hide their disappointment. However, that did 
not last long. Such is the Irish spirit that when my fellow-travellers 
saw the triumph wreathing my face and the trophy of green in 
my hand, instantly they sensed that I had found a treasure and 
openly showed me that they shared the exhilaration of discovery 
with me. Yet they were cheerful and clever dissemblers. As we 
went on our journey one by one they confessed to me that though 
they had lived all their lives in Ireland they had never really 
noticed the Hart's Tongue before nor had ever heard its name 

"The Herb Called Hart's Tongue 9 157 

until they heard it from me. What a commentary upon the average 
man's power to observe the commonplaces that surround him! It 
was a friendly company that exchanged farewells at the bus stop 
in Enniskillen. 

When after returning home I put pressed specimens of my 
County Leitrim Hart's Tongue beside those from Tennessee and 
Collingwood it was easy to detect differences between the two 
groups: the fronds of the Irish plants are noticeably longer and 
somewhat broader proportionately than those of the American. 
Besides, minute differences in the fruiting bodies are brought out 
by the microscope. It was manifest that the professional botanist 
is right in counting the trans-Atlantic Hart's Tongue as the type 
of the species and the American as a variety. 

Early the following summer clues began to come in. "You will 
easily find the Hart's Tongue," a wise old botanist assured me, "in 
the wooded southeastern comer of the Peninsula. It is sparsely 
scattered among the damp, shady crevices of the dolomite near 
Purple Valley. There's lots of it in the woods southwest of Hope 
Bay." That seemed to be the last word on the subject. I was 
buoyed up by a feeling of confidence such as crowns the end of a 
long hunt. But I exulted too soon. What seems clear indoors today, 
is tomorrow in the field often as inscrutable as a signpost in a fog 
at midnight. The morning after the old man sent us on our way 
rejoicing my companion and I found to our dismay that even 
the common little word "near" can be without real meaning. 
"Near" might be a matter of half a mile or five miles. Of a sudden, 
a suspicion dawned upon us: possibly our accommodating guide 
had been vague by design. We could not brush 'the idea away. 
Was he trying to steer us away from his treasured rarity? So we set 
out on a long tedious trudge from farmhouse to farmhouse. At 
each door we asked the same question: Does anyone here know 
where the Hart's Tongue fern grows in the neighbourhood of 
Purple Valley? Certainly the name was no "open sesame": nobody 
had ever heard it before. One kindly housewife cheered us with a 
hearty "Yes, 111 show you." The good soul limped ahead of us to 
a shaded corner of a lovely garden and proudly pointed to a bed 
of gorgeous pansies heart's ease, of course. 

Balked but not beaten we turned, still hopeful, to the heavily 
wooded tract southwest of Hope Bay. But "southwest" proved to 
be as vague a directive as "near." We saw clearly we must change 
our way of approaching people. So instead of trusting in the magic 

155 The Bruce Beckons 

of the plant's unusual name to open up a lead, we had recourse to 
description. We aimed to make our word-pictures so vivid that 
even 'the simplest rustic who had ever seen the Hart's Tongue 
growing would recognize it at once in our portrayal of it. We 
stressed its unique features its long, straplike fronds, its re- 
semblance to garden herbs, its love of dim, secluded nooks in the 
forest But we made no more headway than before; in every door- 
way we met a blank uncomprehending face. Our pride in an 
ability to command words was a pricked bubble. And to think 
that this was the last day of that year's quest! We gave up and 
returned to the Club. 

The news awaiting us there was not such as to banish all dis- 
appointment. A passing party of American botanists had left a 
message for us: only the day before they had found a stand of 
Hart's Tongue near Sydney Bay on Cape Croker. And that was 
not all: 'a Toronto friend had come upon one near Berford Lake. 
Once more those baffling approximations! However, the reports 
were fundamentally encouraging: they brought assurance that 
the Hart's Tongue still had roots in the Peninsula. 

In the summer of 1951 the quest was taken up afresh. Again 
the mode of attack was changed. Now we resolved to resort to 
stealth, to steal up, as it were, upon the plant itself in its fast- 
nesses. Our cunning was businesslike. On a single card we jotted 
down brief notes on all the features of the Hart's Tongue's haunts 
in this region. Outstanding were: dolomite cliffs of varying height; 
horizontal ledges, clefts, or fissures; damp and very rich leaf 
mould; a dense overshadowing canopy of hardwood trees. Then 
we put ourselves through a quiz. Do we know of any single tract 
on the east side of the Peninsula, we asked, in which all these 
features are ideally combined? We took our time to think it over 
two whole days. Our answer was a positive "Yes." But here's 
the rub the spot is two miles away from the nearest station pre- 
viously reported. 

To that spot we repaired next morning early. Our first view of it 
was gratifying; it seemed to be all we had hoped for, nearly ideal. 
A low limestone cliff, no higher than twenty-five feet and some- 
what more than two hundred yards long, lay squarely across our 
line of vision. At no time of day in any season could a direct ray 
of sunlight strike its face, so thick was the network of branches 
and twigs that overhung it. The two of us parted, my companion 
to scale the south end of the little cliff and I the north. It was only 

"The Herb Called Hart's Tongue' 159 

seconds later when a voice on my right rang out: "Here they are, a 
whole settlement of them!" Yes, there they were, fine, healthy 
clumps o them hob-nobbing in the twilight with companies of 
Holly ferns. The sight was as beautiful as it was thrilling. In an 
instant the load of accumulated disappointments of many years 
was lifted from our minds; only the satisfaction of achievement 
remained. And there was sound reason for triumph: in finding our 
way, as it were by dead reckoning, to this solitary stand of Hart's 
Tongue we now had in our hands the key to other stands. 

But has our story given the key to all the world also? When I say 
that I hope not, the motive is not a selfish one. On the contrary, it 
is thoroughly altruistic: I am moved by the desire to help save 
for the people the Hart's Tongue and the other rare plants of the 
Bruce Peninsula. The vagueness with which the sage old botanist 
veiled his reports on the rare fern's stations was the product of a 
ripe experience in Europe and in North America. The good man 
had learned that when Nature's prized rarities are placed within 
easy reach of the public hand, that hand is apt to feel no restraint. 
The hand that has to toil hard and long to discover Nature's 
treasures is likely to value and preserve them. That the Hart's 
Tongue of this region has already suffered from the lack of 
restraint is no fiction. Before me as I write is a depressing entry 
in a diary; the diary is that of the man who nearly fifty years ago 
found the Hart's Tongue stand near Owen Sound. "July 24, 1931. 
... I visited 'the spot' and even in semi-darkness got three small 
Hart's Tongues. . . . Visitors seem to have taken all the large plants. 
Even last year specimens were scarce. Sent some last summer to 
Ottawa. . . r 

Time and again my thoughts dwell upon the astoundingly 
various properties which for more than two thousand years witch, 
seer, wizard, and physician have attributed to "the herb called 
hart's tongue." That Science has now branded them all as vain 
delusions I cannot accept without some lingering regret. Only 
think: if they were true, the abundance of the plant in The Bruce 
could make the place even more remarkable than it is now. With 
a quick "remedie" at hand no longer need the wayfarer fear the 
Massasauga's fang nor sudden seizure by "the laske and bloudy 
flix." Besides, there remains the comforting assurance of the spirit 
lady of the Welsh Lake of the Little Hill. If she is right, then any 
inhabitant of The Bruce who suffers from the torment of unchaste 
impulses could blame no one but himself. 

Chapter 15 


' ELL, now that at last you have found the "big thing/' 
is there anything around here worth looking for?" 
That question was thrown at us the morning after we 
had found the Hart's Tongue fern in its native lair in The Bruce. 
It nettled me a bit, probably without real reason; I seemed to 
sense in its tone a hint no more than a hint that for a man on the 
far side of seventy to take on another long chase was the height of 
rashness. My reply was quick though perhaps too sharp: "Yes, 
there is something else; and the old man can take it. The chase is 
on right now!" 

That something had long been in our thoughts, one of the 
loveliest of our native North American plants the Prairie White 
Fringed Orchid. 1 In its true home in the swampy flatlands of the 
Mississippi Valley and adjacent regions it grows lush, tall, and 
in abundance. In the northeast scattered spots in Nova Scotia, 
New England, New York, and eastern Ontario it is rapidly dying 
out if it is not already dead. In the thirties it was found in the 
Bruce Peninsula by the lynx-eyed Krotkov, Its mere presence here 
so far away from its usual haunts adds to the wonders of this great 
rock garden of the north. The appeal of this new wonder was too 
strong for me; to my friend's gentle taunt what other retort was 
there to give than the one I gave him? Besides, a shrewd observa- 
tion of that famous rover, George Borrow, had long ago fixed in 
me a conviction that the quest would not be utterly unrewarded: 
"The dog that trots about finds a bone." 

For many years this note, made up of the remarks of several 
observers, has been reposing in my files: 

From its soggy bed among pitcher-plants and sundews the Prairie White 
Fringed orchid lifts aloft a straight green, leafy stem which sometimes 
reaches a height of four feet. This culminates in a spike of gleaming wMte, 
a pinnacle of flowers that seem to be molded out of foam. This effect is 

1. Habenaria leucophaea ( Nutt. ) Gray. 


Orchid and Flowerpot 161 

Prairie White Fringed Orchid 

produced by the finely-cut petals of the individual flowers. From the spike 
floats off a dainty perfume, half-strange, half -familiar, but always intriguing. 
Some say it reminds them of the fragrance of elder blossoms. But whatever it 
be, one who smells it carries away a pleasant wonder. 

When a party of three of us set out on our new mission we put 
on a bold front to conceal a question that sorely puzzled us. The 
directions that Krotkov gave me by word of mouth in the thirties 
were indeed gloriously vague. He had come across the rare orchid 
near a lake in the northeast corner of the Peninsula. That was all 
he said; and now he was long dead. Only count the lakes in that 
corner; here are but a few of them: Shouldice, Crane, Gillies, 
Britain, Marley, George, Emmett, Lower and Upper Andrew, 
Umbrella, Moore, enough to keep a large company hunting all 
season. The old gentleman God rest his soul! had a keen sense of 

Two things were plain: a plan was needed to save time and 
effort; if any of the lakeside bogs were dry it was useless to press 
the search. A visit to two or three would soon determine our 
course. With the new large-scale government chart before us we 
laid out the route for the day: to Shouldice and then on to Crane, 
Marley, George, and, last of all, back southwards to Britain, One 

102 The Bruce Beckons 

look showed that the floor of the small bog at the east end of 
Shouldice Lake was caked hard and cracked. No orchid could live 
there. In the great broad swamp east of Crane conditions were 
even worse: one could walk halfway across it dryshod. Returning 
to our car we were about to turn north towards George and its 
neighbouring lakes when a native kindly warned us that the rough 
trail was blocked by a fallen tree. 

So it was with very dim hopes that we coasted down the last 
slope of the winding road into a parklike property on the east side 
of Lake Britain. Its owner-who, as it turned out, was a fellow- 
citizen of our own home town of London greeted us cheerfully 
by name and welcomed us to his summer demesne. We told him 
our errand. "Hopeless, utterly hopeless," he said; "this year the 
water in the lake and adjacent bogs is at the lowest level I have 
ever seen it. See for yourselves." We did: a few glances up lake, 
down lake, and at the broad bog on the far side were enough. 
Nature's decree was plain to read: the quest, barely begun, was 
already off but, of course, for this year only. Hope returned when 
we thought of the late Frank Morris's long search for the very 
same orchid that we sought and the feeling words he wrote under 
the inspiration of final success. "But there's joy in the chase as 
well as in the kill; and it certainly has been no end of a chase, over 
many a season and hundreds of miles/' 1 

As we were about to bid our kindly host farewell he exclaimed 
in a tone that revealed a desire to spread salve on the wound of 
our manifest disappointment: "But you haven't seen the Monu- 
ment yet." "What monument?" we asked naively. "Why, a remark- 
able rock formation a great limestone column standing on the 
face of the cliff- If you haven't seen that you haven't seen the 
Peninsula." Thereupon our friend pointed out the way to the 
marvel "Drive east," he said, "across yonder newly-mown hayfield, 
then walk the rest of the way. When you get to the brink of the 
cliff you can easily get down to the Monument; an old iron fire- 
escape leads to it" 

At the far side of the field a snake fence in the last stage of 
decrepitude halted the car. The sag in this bairier at which we 
stopped had obviously been a gate long years before. Clambering 
over the ancient rails we found ourselves in a rank, dense tangle of 
staghorn sumac, wild roses, and chokecherry trees heavily laden 

1. Frank Morris and Edward A. Eames, Our Wild Orchids (New York: Charles 
Scribner's Sons, 1929), p. 153. 

Orchid and Flowerpot 163 

with fruit* Through this we pushed slowly and with great caution, 
for the exceptionally heavy curtain of foliage hid the ground ahead 
of us. We knew we must be very close to the scalloped edge of the 
precipice. Parting the curtain carefully we suddenly gave our- 
selves a glorious surprise: a broad, gorgeous scene of cliff, trees, 
water, and sunlight. 

As a picture it was perfectly composed: from one side to the 
other was the blue expanse of that inland freshwater sea, the 
Georgian Bay, and in the distant background to the north the 
vision was blocked by the clear-cut silhouette of Cabot's Head and 
its lofty bluffs. Though the day was by no means windless, not the 
faintest sound of lapping waters rose to the height where we 
stood. But it was neither the breadth nor the depth of the scene 
that held us transfixed: it was the spectacular object that lorded 
the foregrounda huge vase-shaped pillar of stratified stone. With 
one voice we shouted: a Flowerpot! 

So this was the Monument. And a massive stately pile it was. 
Indeed, together with its setting of craggy cliff it seemed like the 
remains of a turreted corner of a ruined medieval castle. Into my 
mind flashed the words in which Duncan expressed his pleasure at 
the sight of Macbeth's battlemented home: 

This castle has a pleasant seat, the air 
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself 
Unto our gentle senses. 

The Monument! And well named it was the only monumental 
example of the "flowerpot" formation, so far as we knew, on the 
whole mainland of the Peninsula. Our elation could be forgiven: 
in trotting abroad that day the dog had really found a bone. We 
had set out to find an orchid and had come upon a "flowerpot." 
How strange that in many years of trotting we had never chanced 
upon it before. And yet it had been there for thousands of years. 
But strangest of all was it that, as we learned later, only a few local 
inhabitants who had long known the Monument had ever seen in 
it any special reason for wonder. Familiarity even with an excep- 
tional phenomenon had made it just an "unassuming commonplace 
of nature/* 

But, unlike the Monument, the famous "flowerpots" which many 
years ago gave Flowerpot Islandfour miles off Tobermory its 
unique name, had not thus been left unhonoured. Indians of the 
region have said that for ages their forefathers offered to them the 
grim reverence of fear. They shunned them as though they were 

IQ4 The Bruce Beckons 

living agents of evil Even many a modern Indian avoids Flower- 
pot Island unless driven by night or storm to take refuge there. 
The earliest white explorers as they paddled that way noticed 
three oddly shaped columns of rock: since their day one of the 
three has been toppled over and shattered. In 1827 John Gait, 
sailing on the gunboat Bee from Penetanguishene to the Canada 
Company's infant settlement at Goderich, turned aside to visit the 
curious formations. In a few years they became an attraction for 
tourists. In the course of time the government of Canada became 

The Monument or "DeviTs Pulpit" 

aware of their significance and took special measures to protect 
them against the ravages of the elements and of thoughtless 
vandals. Flowerpot Island, witii its 300 acres of cliffs, caves, dales, 
and forest, is now set apart for the people forever as a national 

Seeing these great, queer stone shapes for the first time, each 
flaunting on its summit a shrub or a small tree, you would prob- 
ably agree with John Gait tfcat the name fits. The two "flowerpots" 
that now survive differ in size and form from each other. One is 
tall indeed, about fifty feet in height and graceful in its lines. 
The other is shorter by twenty feet and in form is stubby, dwarfed, 
and rugged. On its several sides one can see weird, cruel human 
profiles jutting out. Can we blame the unschooled red man for 
his fear of the island? 

Orchid and Flowerpot 

On my first visit to Flowerpot Island I stumbled literally upon 
an enlightening experience. The goal I sought immediately after 
landing was a cave that opens high up on the southern face of the 
island. The job of clambering up to it was not hard. But the 

descent was a very different matter, a problem in mechanics for 
one carrying more weight than that prescribed by a discreet 

doctor. Thus encumbered I found I could not make the return 
journey downhill with a comfortable degree of control. In spite of 
desperate efforts to use my heels as brakes I half -slithered, half- 

Larger Flowerpot 

Smaller Flowerpot 

ran down the declivity toward its abrupt terminus, which was 
nothing less than the brink of a "tall cliff vertiginously high." In 
my frantic wriggling I had managed to put myself flat on my back. 
But this position was a menace rather than a help, for it made me 
a human toboggan sliding downward over the smooth ground- 
cover of fallen leaves and pine needles. Conscious of gaining speed 
I gave up hope. At last, however, 1 passed the zone that favoured 
swift descent and shot out on the bare limestone shelf. Its rough- 
ness slowed me down enough to enable me to straighten out my 
legs and brace my feet. 

Of a sudden I was brought to a rude but welcome stop: one heel 
had dropped into a fissure nearly a foot wide and held there firmly. 
For several minutes I lay without moving, giving my lungs a 
chance to gather breath and my mind to reap a few sober thoughts. 

166 The Bruce Beckons 

Apparently, if we are to accept the assurance of the great 
naturalist, William Beebe, the position in which I was is one 
that encourages philosophic meditation. "In the world of nature 
of the naturalist," he observes sagely, "to Me supine, even to have 
slid violently into that posture, is merely to be presented with a 
fresh, new view of the world." 1 

Struggling to my feet I gazed with gratitude at the breach in 
the rock that hacl saved me. Though agape like the mouth of the 
dumb, it seemed to say something about the making of a "flower- 
pot." On the surface of the shelf above the cliff the fissure had 
the outline of a half -circle. But the gap was far from being super- 
ficial; with the almost uniform width of nine inches it dropped 
down into the rock farther than one could see. Plainly, it cut out 
of the face of the island a solid block of many strata. This mass 
was now a separate unit in itself the rough material out of which 
some day a new "flowerpot" may be sculptured. What force 
severed it? And with what tools? What hand and what skill would 
give it its final form? 

Probably the initial fissure of each of the existing "flowerpots" 
was caused by the tort, or twisting effect, of a glacier as it forced 
its way along the edge of the island's southern cliff. After the 
retreat of the ice Nature had a chance to begin her long patient 
work of shaping the rude block of stone and shales that had been 
left behind. First she wielded her lighter tools: with the constant 
drip and seepage of water she slowly widened the space that now 
separated the block from the island; when that became wide 
enough to hold great volumes of water she poured into it torrents 
of rain and melted snows. Then with the fine chisels of wind, sleet, 
and frost she set herself to chipping away at all the exposed sur- 
faces of the huge mass until it began to take on a few of the finer 
features men were to behold and wonder at in a later era. But 
Nature was not yet done with her heavier tools. At the base of the 
new towering shape she hurled the waves of great storms and the 
battering rams of winter ice-fields. The hard Lockport dolomite 
on top resisted the impact with some success, but the soft strata 
below were worn away until all that was left of them was a slender 
stem holding aloft a body of rock whose lines and proportions 
remind the common man of today of some familiar article of 
domestic use. 

1. William Beebe, High Jungle (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1949). 
p. 139. 

Orchid and Flowerpot 167 

Different travellers of the early days saw in these striking forma- 
tions different things. Some saw in the larger formation a Roman 
wine jar, but others a kind of Greek vase; still others, noting the 
tree or shrub that adorned each summit, saw in both masses 
nothing but flowerpots. To the unschooled pioneer classical com- 
parisons meant nothing. So, with him, the modern commonplace 
won out over the refinements of antiquity, and to this day the 
shapely stone columns of Flowerpot Island are just plain flower- 

In form the Monument resembles both its counterparts on the 
island: it has the slim stem of the larger and the harsh profiles of 
the smaller. Like both it displays a clump of green foliage; this is 
dappled with little spots of red. With the naked eye one can easily 
identify the species: it is that now common European stowaway, 
kindred to the tomato and the potato, the Nightshade, sometimes 
called Climbing Bittersweet Its touch of colour tones down the 
glare and softens the lines of the gaunt stone form. 

The Monument seems to be the product of the same order of 
natural forces that fashioned the long-known "flowerpots." In 
general it consists of the same materials, but in one respect it is 
conspicuously different: its body, which is made up of members 
of the Medina-Cataract series of strata present in the Escarpment, 
lacks the hard protective shield of Lockport dolomite that caps 
each of the island forms. 

But the Monument, we find, is not after all the sole formation of 
its general kind known on mainland parts of the Escarpment. 
When, a year or two ago, the press and the grapevine telegraph 
told the world of the Monument's presence on the Peninsula, 
reports of other pillar-like rocks began to come in from several 
quarters. Simcoe County proudly reported a "standing rock" 
within her borders, one that looks like a cylinder standing up- 
right on one end in a rough deep notch in the edge of the Blue 
Mountains eight miles south of Collingwood. In its turn, Grey 
County pointed with spirit to its authentic "Standing Rock" that 
overlooks the Georgian Bay five miles west of Collingwood. 
Students of the history of ancient Huronia believe this to be the 
Standing Rock near which lay Etharita, the village of the Petuns, 
or Tobacco Nation, to which the Jesuits gave the name, Mission of 
St. Mathias. The last word came from Halton County, many miles 
to the south: on the sheer face of the cliff at Mount Nemo, it said, 
is poised a ten-foot "flowerpot" shaped like a chimney. Of these 

168 The Bruce Beckons 

three stone columns, one must observe, not one seems to resemble 
in its making the "flowerpots" of The Bruce and of the island in 
the straits. However, the "Standing Rock" of Etharita has long 
been known to have a special significance: for the Petuns it 
marked the wild tract in which dwelt the spirits of their departed. 
This belief and the fact that a village was established near it 
illustrates a notable contradiction typical of the primitive mind. 
While repelled from the great pinnacle of stone by his fear of it, 
at the same time the Indian could not resist an influence that 
powerfully drew him towards it. 

As we looked long and intently upon the Monument on the day 
of discovery thoughts crowded into our minds. This massive shape 
in stone is more than merely a scenic wonder and a subject of the 
geologist's study. Perhaps it has an historical, even an archaeologi- 
cal, significance as well. We know that the early Indian shunned 
the island "flowerpots"; we know too of the Petuns' paradoxical 
attitude toward "Standing Rock." If Du Creux's outline of the 
Bruce Peninsula is even approximately correct, then one can infer 
that somewhere in the region of the Monument was the Petun 
village which became the Mission of St. Simon and St. Jude. Is it 
absurd to expect that the Monument, though an object of awe, 
could yet attract to it settlements of the very people who dreaded 
the sight of its uncanny form? 

There are a flash of memory reminds us signs near Gillies 
Lake, only four miles distant, of an ancient Indian occupation 
thereabouts. The possibilities of discovery are fascinating. We feel 
a strong impulse to go and see forthwith. But, happily, a mentor 
within us intervenes in time a remnant of common sense. To yield 
to the prompting now would be nothing else than the launching 
of a third quest in a single day. In the morning we set out to find 
an orchid 1 and before we knew it we were probing into the natural 
history of "flowerpots." Are not two quests between sunup and 
sundown enough for anyone in his right mind? 

1. In mid- July we found it on the shores of a lake several miles north of Lake 


"Camboose" Camp, No. 1, Shouldice Lake 

Chapter 16 


A ND the trees trooped out! Yes, they trooped out in 
L\ companies, in battalions, in divisions, in armies. Then, 
J_ \_mustered afresh in certain strategic places, they were re- 
formed and sent forth over many routes to diverse destinations. 
The process of evacuating the forest stronghold of The Bruce 
did not last many years ( though longer than seemed possible at 
the start), but when it came to an end it was alarmingly near to 
being complete. In but few areas was there left any reason to 
expect that some day they might again raise a force of the most 
sought-for trees the pines white and red to hold the place of 
those that had marched forth into the outer world. Some tracts 
were now deserts of slash, tangles of windfalls, fire barrens, and 
solitary trees too twisted or dwarfed to interest the axeman. Else- 
where nothing remained but bare expanses of limestone pave- 
ment, the sight of which recalls a Cromwellian description of 
County Clare: "Not enough timber on which to hang a man, 
enough water to drown him, or enough earth to bury him." 

Of what trees did the original forest garrison consist? "The 
men of the trees" would answer that it consisted of two classes: 
"the conifer woods of the Canadian zone" which mark the Lake 
Huron side and the north half of the Peninsula, and the "de- 
ciduous" (i.e. leaf -shedding) Alleghenian woods of the Transi- 
tion zone which are characteristic of the east side. But this is too 
general an answer; only a dry, specific list can, I fear, tell us 
what we wish to know. In the first class we find the three pines- 
red, white, and jack; the two spruces white and black; white 
cedar, tamarac, and hemlock. In the second class are hard maple, 
beech, white elm, red oak, white and black ash, grey birch, and 
basswood; scattered here and there over the Peninsula are the 
elms, rock and red, and, on the east side, the butternut; any- 
where, especially where fire has raged, one may expect the 


172 The Bruce Beckons 

"indomitable white birch." Of course, not all of these trees were 
in equal demand. 

Manifestly, trees do not troop out of themselves; they need 
human marshals. These taken together are an interesting type of 
citizen, a citizen who can be recognized anywhere by his garb, 
By the sixties and seventies when the woodsman began to storm 
The Bruce this garb had virtually become a uniform for his whole 
guild, a uniform which had slowly evolved out of two centuries 
of forest experience of the Canadian habitant, the New Eng- 
lander, and the English-speaking colonist of Upper Canada, as 
they hewed their way westward. For many years numbers of 
husky men, as it were labelled by this uniform, could be seen 
every autumn before freeze-up in all the ports of the Georgian 
Bay, including Owen Sound and Wiarton. Here they made then- 
last preparations before setting out by water for their winter 
camps up the Peninsula or beyond. 

But not all the men who marshalled the trees of The Bruce 
came in each season from outside. A goodly company of them 
were already there, families who had lived on the land since it 
had been opened for settlement. It was their chief occupation, 
especially in winter, to cut down the trees on their own holdings. 
The piecemeal subdivision of the surface of the Peninsula im- 
posed upon it, in general, a small-scale type of lumbering. But 
far more restricting was a practice that did the settler a grave 
injustice, a practice that robbed him of the natural right to be 
master of his own property. This deplorable wrong has been 
almost wholly forgotten; any mention of it in print is brief. Only 
now are the main facts coming into the open, and that just because 
a few old-timers 1 (members of families once engaged in the 
making and shipping of timber and lumber, and men old enough 
to have seen with their own eyes something of the things they 
tell about), have exceptionally keen memories. And how they 
revel in telling of these things! But it is with no little heat that 
they recall the great wrong that caused the settler grievous hard- 
ships and was at long last righted in a highly dramatic manner. 
The small part of this long tale for which there is room on these 
pages is enough to show us how the big pines of The Bruce 
trooped out over its borders. 

1. In order o seniority these are: William Cilchrist, 93, and Robert Lymburner, 
88, of Owen Sound; Charles Williams, 80, of Lion s Head. Charles Williams died 
on January 15, 1952, and William Gilchrist on February 28, 1952. 

And the Trees Trooped Out 173 

The big pines? you ask in a tone of doubt; were there many? 
Though not as numerous or as large as the pines of the Ottawa 
or the Trent, many more of them grew in the Peninsula than 
tradition suspects; certainly, there were enough of them to excite 
the cupidity of big timber operators. Today's ignorance of the 
facts is easily explained. When in the middle fifties the Crown 
took over the Peninsula from the Indians, the sale of lands to 
settlers and the issuance of timber licences were put into the 
hands of a local agent of the Department of Indian affairs. At 
one time the agent had his office in Owen Sound and later in 
Wiarton. His duties were prescribed by Ottawa. Not unless the 
Department requested reports upon special cases did the agent 
have to send to Ottawa records concerning timber leases. So the 
renewal of these leases each spring became in practice a routine 
matter. The germ of trouble in this quite legal course was that the 
pines on the settler's land that were big enough and good enough 
to make square timber for export to Britain belonged not to the 
settler but to the big company that had been given the licence to 
cut the pine on the area involved. One licence noted in the 
records covered fifty-one square miles; the amount asked for was 
seventy-five. Of the pine on his holding the settler was allowed 
only barely enough for the erection of permanent buildings, such 
as a house, barn, and a small sawmill. The settler's grievance was 
a real one, but all his protests were in vain. The evil lasted, as 
we shall see, until early in the eighties. 

The pines marked for export began their exodus from the 
Peninsula in the first years of the sixties. They were cut and 
squared in Keppel and Amabel townships by a large operator 
who held the licence for that territory. They were landed at 
Oliphant and then sent in rafts to Collins Inlet, now Tobermory. 
There they were loaded through stern-ports on to three-masted 
schooners and conveyed to Toronto and, ultimately, probably in 
rafts, to Quebec. 

Later in the same decade and through the seventies the same 
company secured a succession of leases to work in the north part 
of the Peninsula where grew the largest stands of prime pine. 
Here operations were conducted on so extensive a scale that the 
operators found it necessary to build a full-fledged "camboose" 
camp of the type common in the eastern forests. The spot where 
this camp stood is now a half-grown-over clearing at the east 
end of Shouldice Lake. Camp Number 1 it was called by its 

174 The Bruce Beckons 

owners; whether there were others of its kind in the region no 
one seems to know. It sheltered a staff of eighty-two hands, all 
skilled in the making of square sticks. No wonder the pines 
marched out of The Bruce in veritable armies! No wonder, either, 
that the settlers' complaints had become a chorus! 

At first the men working out of Camp No. 1 drew the squared 
timbers over iced snow trails through the forest and across 
frozen Gillies Lake to Wingfield Basin at Cabot's Head. Where 
the sticks went from there we can only conjecture. Probably they 
were taken to Collingwood by schooner or raft and there loaded 
on flat cars of the Northern Railway. As yet the rails had not 
reached Owen Sound. This we do know: square timbers were in 
that period unloaded from the cars at the Northern Railway's 
dock by the Queen's Wharf in Toronto and there made into large 
rafts to be towed to Quebec. During two latter phases of the 
industry in this region 1882 and 1888 the sticks were landed on 
the shore of Dyer's Bay where the village of that name stands 
today. From there, as my informants often saw with their own 
eyes, they went in rafts to Owen Sound to be forwarded by rail- 
way to Toronto. 

Over the years novelists who have pictured the life of the 
North American woodsman have cast an aura of romance around 
the name of the "camboose" camp. This has drawn attention 
away from evils that almost always followed in the wake of its 
operations. The truth is that the making of square timber, whether 
by large gangs or by small gangs, was appallingly wasteful. For 
this purpose only the largest and finest pines were chosen. The 
operators well knew that the ultimate purchaser would reject any 
stick that failed to meet his most exacting requirements; the 
presence of more than two black knots in any stick was enough 
to condemn it. By sounding a tree with the back of his axe a 
skilled axeman could nearly always tell its quality. Sometimes, 
however, he found after felling a tree that its wood was below 
standard; its fate was to be left prostrate on the ground to rot. 
Even the felling of sound trees was wasteful, especially in the 
early days when all felling was done with the axe. The chips 
produced by the chopping and by the squaring were left just 
where they fell; masses of these, together with the slash of 
branches and tops and the rotting remains of whole trees, be- 
came enormous tinder-boxes. In this inflammable stuff was kindled 
years later many a fire that brought ruin to the settlers over 
whose lands and homesteads it swept 

And the Trees Trooped Out 175 

By 1880 the settlers found themselves driven to resort to almost 
desperate measures. In a council of war they decided to demand 
the abolition of a practice that stripped their land of its natural 
wealth. Enlisting the aid of members of Parliament who were in 
favour with the Government they took their grievance to Ottawa. 
To give point to their plea they named one firm in particular as 
affording a convincing illustration of the kind of harm that was 
being done by the "big fellows." This operator, it seems, was the 
successor to the company that had built Camp No. 1 on Shouldice 
Lake. But the successor was no longer an individual or a family; 
it was a recently incorporated company of British investors. Had 
the original operator, one wonders, seeing that the big pines 
were almost aU gone, unloaded upon others who lived far away 
the burden of ownership? In any case, the new owner resisted the 
efforts of the settlers, but with so little tact as to get under the 
Government's skin. At long last, the petitioners secured the ear 
of the Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Very quickly he 
perceived the justice of their case. So by this time it was 1882 
he summarily cancelled the lease complained of and put an end 
to the issuance of that kind of lease in The Bruce. Thus what 
might fitly be called the Peasants* War of the Peninsula ended in 
complete victory for those who launched it to right a great wrong. 1 

But not all the blame for ravaging the forests of The Bruce can 
justly be laid at the doors of big business. Many small operators 
and the settlers themselves seemed in their own modest way to 
be no less obsessed with the same passion: to keep the trees 
marching out into the world at the double quick. The joint ad- 
vance of camp and sawmill over the face of the Peninsula was as 
ragged and random as the front of a guerilla army. A few dates 
together with a little geography will make that clear. Before 
1860 a sawmill was at work on Colpoy's Bay in Albemarle, which 
is north of Amabel, whereas William Street's mill on the Sauble 
River in the latter township did not begin sawing until Sep- 
tember 1862. In 1872 a saw-and-shingle mill was set up inland on 
the Crane River ten miles south of The Tub; The Tub itself got 
along without such an installation until 1881, the year in which 
Horace Lymburner and his sons started their mill at "Ghost 
Lake/' 2 that is, Gillies Lake, between Dyer's Bay and Cabot's 
Head on the Georgian Bay side of the Peninsula. In 1874 a water- 
run mill was turning out lumber at Barrow Bay farther south on 
the same shore. About 1892 two important plants began operating 

1. See Appendix. 2. See chapter XVII, "The Mill at Ghost Lake." 

176 The Bruce Beckons 

on the Lake Huron side, the one at Big Pine Tree Harbour which 
handled soft woods, the other at Stokes Bay 1 which was chiefly 
concerned with the hardwoods commonly used in the manu- 
facture of furniture, notably maple, beech, grey birch, and ash. 
Both these mills had checkered careers, passing in succession from 
one owner to another, bringing sometimes the heartache of loss, 
sometimes the comfort of profit. In the main, their story is the 
story of most of the other mills of the Peninsula, 

These are only a few of al the mills that busied themselves 
over the years with turning the trees of the whole Peninsula into 
timbers and lumber. Of the total the historian 2 of the industry in 
this region makes the astounding statement that the logs from the 
Peninsula "fed the eight mills that in the early days encircled the 
lower end of Colpoy's Bay, besides some thirty smaller mills which 
dotted the shores of the Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and numerous 
inland lakes of the Peninsula." 

To see the trooping of the trees to the best advantage, we should 
keep our eyes on Wiarton. First, let us watch them troop in. 
Most of the logs that went into the town's mills came as great 
rafts towed in by tugs during the season of calm, open waters. In 
those months the lower part of Colpoy's Bay was for long periods 
a vast expanse of logs marshalled into large booms; they extended 
from the town dock far down the Bay. The sight of these acres 
upon acres of logs brought forth the same anxious question year 
after year: How long can the supply up country stand the drain? 
Some said ten years; others, fifteen at the most. One operator 
reckoned that his corner of the forest would last for twenty-five 
years; this shrewd prophet actually worked it for twenty-four and 
then cannily sold his holdings and his risks. 3 The proved volume 
of the supply amazed all observers: it lasted until 1914, well over 
thirty years. In that year the decline was so obvious as to herald 
the end: there were no more trees to troop out. 

But the moving-picture of trees on the march is not complete 
until we see the great army actually in motion out of Wiarton. 
It was composed not only of what was once red and white pine 
but of products of other kinds of trees as well. Of these hemlock 
was one, a common species of the virgin forest It marched out 
in two forms, square timbers and tanbark. At one time 4000 cords 

1. See chapter XVIII, "The Mill at Stokes Bay,* 9 

2. Mr. Walter M. Newman, J.P., of Wiarton. 

3. See chapter XVII, "The Mill at Ghost Lake." 

the Trees Trooped Out 177 

of bark were shipped out in a year by a single company. The white 
cedar, too, joined the great exodus in the guise or posts and ties. 
In this, -the heyday of railway building, the demand for ties was 
greater than the supply. In one season alone the Grand Trunk 
Railway mustered out of Wiarton 800,000 ties cut in The Bruce, 
in addition to tens of thousands of others that had been borne by 
boat to Wiarton from Manitoulin Island and the North Shore. 
Wiarton was then indeed a haven of job-seekers; there were more 
jobs than men to fill them. 

The memory of this stirring scene remains vivid in the minds 
of some men and women stiM livingo In the printed record set 
forth by Walter Newman, who himself played an active part in 
the industry, we can gain a clear vision of it. "During the six 
or eight months of the summer session," he writes, "twenty-five 
carloads of ties and timber were taken out of Wiarton daily, 
besides large quantities of posts, bark, wood and other products 
of the mills, and the children of that day watched with interest 
when the locomotives (sometimes three to a train) snorted and 
groaned in their efforts to haul the long trains of lumber and ties 
up the heavy grade leading out of the business section of the 

However, not all the output of Wiarton mills and the labour 
of Wiarton hands went out over the rails: one contingent sallied 
forth by water on a long and hazardous voyage, its destination 
being the Canadian "Soo." Newman himself helped in forming 
it and preparing it for its journey; today he delights in telling the 
story of it. 

In 1891 the young Wiarton lumber company of Seaman and 
Newman was honoured with the award of a contract of notable 
importance: to supply half a million feet of squared hemlock 
timbers, in lengths of twenty-five and thirty feet, for use in the 
construction of the Canadian canal at Sault Ste Marie. Delivery 
was to be made by raft, an undertaking which, because of the 
exceptional risks involved, called for skill and courage. These, 
as the outcome proved, were not lacking. 

A raft consisted of a crib made of the timbers to be transported; 
it was 125 feet long and 25 to 30 feet wide according to the 
length of the timber in the consignment. The basic framework 
of the crib was a rectangular boom floating on the water. Into the 
logs of each long side was bored a row of perpendicular holes, 
the space between each pair of holes being equal to the thick- 

178 The Bruce Beckons 

ness of a single timber. Through each hole was thrust upward 
from the underside of the boom-log a heavy iron rod about 
thirteen feet long. This was really a bolt with its head under 
water and its thread aloft. On each pair of opposite bolts was 
laid a timber whose ends had been bored to receive them. In 
this manner layer after layer of timbers was piled up to a height 
of thirteen feet. Nuts were then screwed tight on the projecting 
threads of the bolts. This bound all the timbers together into a 
firm single unit into a solid rectangular raft of hemlock drawing 
nine feet of water! It was virtually a tow-barge in itself. But like 
a horse it could not be allowed out on the highway without its 
"bridle." This was a very simple but ingenious device made of 
heavy chains to which was fastened the hook of the towline. The 
bridle was attached to the forward end of the raft in such a way 
that the raft instead of slewing from side to side at the slightest 
turn of the tug followed the turn at once. 

The success of Seaman and Newman's experiment was indeed 
brilliant; it gratified both the partners and the Department of 
Public Works in Ottawa. During the next six years the company 
rafted 6,000,000 feet of hemlock timber to the "Soo." Only once, 
despite many a violent storm, did the firm suffer any serious loss. 

This was not the only type of rafting known to the people of 
the Peninsula. In the eighties and nineties they often saw passing 
westward through the strait off Tobermory rafts of a different 
order. These were not made up of logs taken from the hills and 
dales of The Bruce; rather, they were "logs for Saginaw/' brought 
from the French, the Wahnapitae, the Spanish, rivers that empty 
into the northeast corner of the Georgian Bay. The magnitude of 
the undertaking staggers the imagination. The distance from the 
mouth of the French to Saginaw is more than 230 miles. The size 
of raft used was enormous, "A raft containing three million board 
feet of logs," writes an authority, "covered an area of about ten 
acres, while an eight-million-foot-raft would be as much as twenty- 
five acres in area. Probably the largest raft seen on Lake Huron 
during the 189Q's was one towed from Georgian Bay to Tawas 
(Michigan) in 1892. It contained 91,700 logs, scaling about ten 
million board feet and needed three tugs to handle it." 

The volume of this traffic varied with the legislative changes 
in Canada and the United States in regard to tariffs on the move- 
ment of pine between the two countries. The peak was reached 
between 1890 and 1898. In the former year Ottawa removed the 

And the Trees Trooped Out 179 

export duty on pine logs, and in the latter the Dingley Tariff, 
which imposed an import duty on Canadian pine, began to make 
itself felt. The greatest volume of this wood to go in one year 
from Ontario to sawmills in eastern Michigan was rafted out in 
1894: a grand total of 301,000,000 feet. What interests us now 
is the fact that the greater part of these vast quantities went out 
under the eyes of the inhabitants of Tobermory. Often have I 
heard some of the older folk of that place speak in sad tones of 
the impressive spectacle of whole Canadian forests being borne 
away from the land that grew them. 

But the picture of the great exodus of the trees from The Bruce 
is even yet not fully drawn: a few minor touches are lacking. 
Among these are several typical figures. "I can well remember/' 
writes Walter Newman, "when it was not unusual for one of the 
mills to ship in one season from Wiarton several cargoes of the 
best no. 1 com. and better maple at $9.75 per M. and the choicest 
hemlock at $5.50 and $6.00 per M. feet. The greater part of this 
found its way to Detroit, Windsor and Chatham. Soft elm, which 
at that time was much in favor for the manufacture of furniture, 
was produced in large quantities in Wiarton and on the Bruce 
Peninsula, and brought as low as $9.00 per M. feet good grades/' 

These figures, for major products of the mills, help to illustrate 
the changes that have taken place since the turn of the century; 
perhaps one of the lowliest products will serve the purpose still 
better. Sixty years ago for a cord of four-foot soft slabs loaded on 
the car one could not get more than fifty cents. So little above 
cost was this that in the long run it was much more profitable 
to use the slabs in the making of docks. To this grim fact Wiarton 
owed the convenience of three long slab docks on its water front. 
Today in any Ontario city a small bundle of thin slab kindling 
eighteen inches long sells for twenty-five cents; there was a time 
when in Wiarton for that paltry "two bits" you could have pur- 
chased half a cord of whole slabs. 

While we have been discoursing about the protracted mass 
flight of many generations of trees from The Bruce, our thoughts 
have really been chiefly concerned with generations of men and 
women, and with two in particular. One of them is the generation 
who have inherited the patchwork of wilderness, arid barrens, 
small farm clearings, and a struggling second growth of forest. The 
other is the generation who left the legacy. The latter it is very 
easy to judge harshly; they are really better than they seem. From 

ISO The Bruce Beckons 

the point of view of today they were wasteful of Nature's bounty, 
being anxious only for the morrow and without thought for the 
day after tomorrow. But we must remember this: they were trail- 
breakers in a new land and were like all others of their kind any- 
where: immediate ends for them were food and life itself. It is 
unjust to appraise them by the standards of long-settled com- 
munities, rural as well as urban. An endeavour to see them in the 
light of the austerities of life that confronted them on the frontier 
will bring reward. We shall then come to know a generation of 
men and women of great industry, courage, resourcefulness, and 
warm-heartedness. So young is the frontier of The Bruce that 
some of that generation are still spared to us. Moreover, in a 
goodly number of their children we see reborn into new lives 
the quality of the parents. 

Chapter 17 


COULD a zealous angler ever bless the day when his luck 
utterly failed him? The very idea seems preposterous. 
Well, I did once; indeed, I still do. If the fish had been 
biting on the day when I first cast a line in Ghost Lake I could 
never have known the halo of lore and authentic history that 
surrounds the name of a remarkable lake. 

The Indians of the Bruce Peninsula called this unusual body 
of water Ghost Lake. Today the prosaic white man knows it as 
Gillies Lake, a name which though it fits the history of the 
region fails to arouse any feelings of wonder. The Indian name 
suggests the marvellous, if not the unique. The truth is that 
this lake is unique among the lakes of this remote recess of 
Ontario. It is only natural that the unschooled Indian felt its 
wonders to be the creation of unseen cosmic powers. 

But he had a graver reason for disquiet. Long, long, ago, the 
lake, as with one gulp, swallowed a whole company of his folk. 
One day in late winter, the legend has it, nearly half the people 
of a nearby village were fishing through the ice. Their rough 
bark shelters dotted the lake's glistening expanse. Suddenly, there 
was a loud report; it sounded as if the whole forest round about 
had crashed in a single instant. Rushing out, the fishermen beheld 
a fearsome sightthe great solid sheet of ice was shattered into 
hundreds of small floes. No more than half a dozen of those who 
were fishing escaped; being nearer shore than the others they 
managed, by jumping from floe to floe, to scramble to land. Now 
the white bones of all their unfortunate felows add to the eerie 
whiteness of the marly bed of Ghost Lake's deepest abysses. Yes, 
the Indians had reasons for looking with dread upon these waters 
and their surroundings. 

The very situation of the lake arrests attention. A body of water 
two miles long with a maximum breadth of half a mile, it reposes 
close to the scalloped edge of the high, precipitous cliff that over- 


182 The Bruce Beckons 

looks the Georgian Bay. What keeps the lake's waters from cas- 
cading over the precipice? How can the lake, being where it is, 
remain a lake? The name "Hanging Lake" would be just as apt as 
the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. 

Besides, Ghost Lake is a place of the most startling contrasts 
by reason of its extensive shallows and stupendous depths. From 
its western end its glistening floor of chalk-white marl drops 
imperceptibly from zero at the rate of little more than an inch 
in every hundred feet. In the broad basin at its eastern end and 
not far from the coastal escarpment, I have failed in many efforts 
to touch bottom with a heavy weight attached to a fishing line 
150 feet in length. Who can blame the Indian for attributing to 
invisible spirit forces the scooping of this phenomenal hollow out 
of the limestone? Only recently has geology offered a simple and 
convincing explanation of the lake's origin. At one time before the 
ages of ice came to an end the deepest part of what is now the 
lake was an immense cavern in the heart of the many strata of 
limestone, a cavern so lofty that only a relatively thin ceiling 
separated it from the surface of the ground above it. One but 
which one we cannot say of the several ice-fields that ruthlessly 
ground their way southwestward across the Peninsula either 
sheared the ceiling off or crushed it in. The retreat of the ice 
left a vast gaping basin. This, filling with water from springs and 
surface drainage, in time became a lake. Quite rightly did the 
Indian see a mystery here. And a mystery it still is even to the 
white man with all his knowledge. 

The abundance indeed, the superabundance of marl in the 
upper half of the lake must have intensified the Indians* notions 
of the part played by weird, unseen potencies in its making. The 
bottom, or floor, of this area and a wide margin of its shores are 
as ghastly white as wraiths are supposed to be. Viewed from an 
aeroplane the lake looks like a long, narrow splash of shiny white 
enamel dropped on the mottled, green-grey pavement of forest 
and limestone. The aquatic plants that project above the surface 
of the water are coated as with the dried spray of whitewash. The 
many kinds of tiny molluscs that are seen throughout the shallows 
are glaring white. Even the fish living in the deep waters of the 
eastern end of the lake are, except for the jet-black back, of a 
ghostly pallor; belly, sides, fins, flesh are snow-white. It was 
reports concerning this strange denizen of its waters that first 

The Mill at Ghost Lake 183 

drew me many years ago to Ghost Lake. Natives and tourists 
called it "mountain trout," a species unknown, except as a local 
name, to science and anglers alike. The very inappropriateness of 
the designation was a lure I could not resist By a route which in 
those early days was both devious and rough I forged my way 
in to the lake with several companions and found its mysterious 
fish to be only a local type ot the lake trout of the Great Lakes 
and of many inland lakes, just the ordinary Cristivomer 

No one who has seen a fish of this species drawn up from the 
depths of Ghost Lake fails to wonder how it and its kind got 
there in the first place. In no other lake of the Peninsula does the 
lake trout exist; yet here in a basin delicately poised on a narrow 
ledge at least two hundred feet above the Georgian Bay it is 
abundant. The most absurd questions flit into the mind and, just 
as quickly, flit out again. Did fish ages ago have the power of 
flight? Or of climbing, as a certain tropical species has today? The 
answer most people give themselves is that Ghost Lake is a left- 
over corner of a vast preglacial lake in which the lake trout was 
native. If that be true, it was a body older than Lake Algonquin, 
whose beach lines to be seen in The Bruce today are lower than 
the level of Ghost Lake. 

Another answer persists in certain quarters, the kind of answer 
that catches popular imagination, glibly offered in many other 
places on this continent to explain the unexpected appearance 
of a fish in a region far from its known habitat. Robert Lymburner, 
who helped his father build the mill at Ghost Lake, submits 
an observation of his own which seems, to the uncritical, to sup- 
port it. 

In the autumn of 1881, according to Lymburner's interesting 
account, their millwright, Richard Townsend, was compelled by 
a prolonged spell of wet weather to postpone the work of setting 
the foundation for the turbine. So he and Lymbumer decided to 
use the idle time for a visit at their homes in Big Bay. To get the 
steamer Jane Miller that would take them there they had to go 
on foot four miles to Cabot* s Head. While still near the shore 
before climbing the escarpment to the overland footpath they 
suddenly saw a large bald eagle take wing ahead of them. As it 
flew up the face of the cliff and thence northward right over 
Gillies Lake they noticed something like shreds of flesh dangling 

184 The Bruce Beckons 

from its talons. Reaching the spot on the waterline from which 
the bird had risen they found the carcass of a lake trout three and 
a half feet long; little remained but the nearly stripped back- 
bone, head and tail Now this happened to be the very season 
when on favourable days the lake trout come close to the shore 
of the Georgian Bay to spawn. Plainly, the fish whose sorry re- 
mains lay before the two men had come too close. As they mused 
upon what they saw the thought came to them that possibly 
among the fragments they had seen hanging from the eagle's 
claws were lumps or strings of spawn. Perhaps the sight they had 
just seen showed just how in a long-past era Gillies Lake had 
become stocked with lake trout. The suggestion, though alluring, 
forces still another question upon us: Is there an authentic record 
anywhere of the hatching of unfertilized spawn? 

Probably nobody will ever be able to explain conclusively 
how the lake trout of the big waters became established in 
Gillies Lake. All one can say with certainty is that it has been 
landlocked in that lofty basin since long before man, Indian or 
white, first knew its glistening expanse. At all events, it has lived 
here long enough in an environment thoroughly impregnated 
with lime to become, inside and outside, pretematurally white. 

But we have not yet done with the wonders of Ghost Lake that 
roused the awe of the Indian: the most awesome wonder of all 
remainsthe outlet. This is startlingly abnormal: unlike most lake 
outlets it is more audible than visible. At its eastern end Ghost 
Lake tapers into a charming little stream which seems bent on 
speeding through the dense forest to the brink of the precipice 
that overhangs Georgian Bay. It leads the visitor along for about 
fifty yards and then rudely abandons him as it abruptly disappears 
in a cleft at his feet. If he stands there motionless and silent, he 
hears, to his surprise, weird reverberations deep down in the rock 
below. Thirty rods further on, at the very edge of the perpen- 
dicular escarpment, he will hear, if the rush of the wind through 
the forest is not too loud, the sound of water breaking out into 
the open two hundred feet below and dashing noisily down the 
remaining slope of broken rocks to the Bay. Such phenomena 
have always stricken men with awe. The mere thought of the 
legend of Kubla Khan which told of the sudden plunge of "Alph, 
the sacred river" of Xanadu, into "caverns measureless to man" 
gave Coleridge the inspiration for the creation of "one of his most 
fanciful poems. 

The Mitt at Ghost Lake 185 

But oh! that deep romantic chasxn which slanted 
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! 
A savage place! 

Can we wonder that the soul of the Indian was stirred to its 
depths by what he saw and heard on lake and cliff? Can we 
wonder that he believed the eerie sounds to be the voices of 
especially powerful spirits who had performed the miracle of 
creating, against extraordinary odds, an outlet for a lake which 
had been denied such an essential by the normal processes of 
nature? To the Indian the name, Ghost Lake, was laden with 
ominous meaning. 

If the waters that fell from Ghost Lake spoke to the Indian, 
they spoke also to the white man, but they bore a different 
message. A certain Captain Port, who with his little steamer, the 
Jane Miller, during the eighties plied the route between Owen 
Sound and Manitoulin Island, caught the message. A white man 
with a white man's bias, he gave it, of course, an economic rather 
than a mystic interpretation. He relayed it to a friend who could 
understand it and profit by it. The friend was Horace Lymbumer, 
father of Robert, the operator of a sawmill at Big Bay in Grey 
County, eighteen miles north of Owen Sound. The Captain told 
the miller of the abundant discharge of water bursting forth from 
the base of the escarpment on Dyer's Bay. This, he pointed out, 
was the novel outlet of the large, deep lake perched on a lofty 
shelf above the cliffs. The water emerged from the steep face of 
the rock at a point quite close to the Bay and high enough above 
it to give it a sufficient head to run a small sawmill. As for the 
timber for the mill, it was, like the lake itself, spread out over 
a great expanse of the plateau behind the escarpment, and in con- 
siderable abundance, chiefly pine, basswood, cedar, and hemlock. 
The Captain's account was really an invitation to explore; the 
miller accepted it gratefully. 

About June 1, 1881, Horace Lymburner landed one evening at 
sundown from the Jane Miller on the rough shore of Dyer's Bay. 
With him were his son Robert 1 and three mill-hands. At a glance 
all saw that a steady supply of water-power for a modest mill was 
assured. What about the supply of food for the mill? Next day 

1. It is to him, now eighty-eight years of age, that the writer is indebted for 
most of the details concerning the lumbering and milling operations at Gillies 
Lake and Dyer's Bay. His narrative and other papers are now in the library of 
the University of Western Ontario. 

186 The Bruce Beckons 

Horace and one of the hands clambered up the face of the rock 
and began a survey of the timber standing on the lands surround- 
ing the lake. In due time, like Caleb and Joshua, they reported 
on their land of promise. The stand of timber, they computed, was 
great enough to keep a small mill in operation for twenty-five 
seasons. Their accuracy of observation and keenness of judgment 
were amply verified by results, for the mill ran on this supply 
for twenty-four successive years. 

There was nothing romantic about the beginning of this new 
venture just the hard slogging labour that marks the pioneer 
phase of life in any new rough country. Yet even the dullest of 
its details show at least how intelligently the pioneer economizes 
his time and adjusts himself to the limitations of his resources as 
well as to the unusual and unforeseen obstacles that confront 
him. In the cycle peculiar to his way of life there is a season for 
every task;. if that task is not done in its proper time then that 
whole season is irretrievably lost. 

The Lymburners realized the truth of this. Once their explora- 
tion was over they saw before them a multitude of tasks all of 
which had to be completed well before their first season came to 
an end. They set to with a will First, a site had to be cleared for 
the mill, accessory buildings, and lumber yards. This they hewed 
out of the dense jungle of underbrush and trees on a slanting 
ledge lying not far from the shore of the Georgian Bay and some 
few feet above it. Here too they hollowed out of the broken sur- 
face limestone and scant gravelly soil a shallow basin in which to 
catch the lake water that gushed out at the foot of the cliff. The 
remainder of the summer was spent in erecting a mill beside the 
basin, and a dwelling to serve as winter quarters for the lumber- 
men. The beams, studding, boards and planks for the building 
were brought from the old mill at Big Bay. 

That was an easy task; more troublesome was the attempt to 
convey the heavy sections of the machinery to the new miflsite. 
The Jane Miller was chosen to be the transport. It so happened 
that this trip was the last she was destined to complete before 
her mysterious disappearance. Because of the good landing facili- 
ties at her home port, the water-wheel and the ponderous saw- 
frames were quickly put on board. But it was a very different 
matter to get them ashore at their destination for as yet there 
was no dock there. After many fruitless efforts all hands gave up 
and the load was taken to Lion's Head and left there till the first 
heavy snowfall. All the machinery was then drawn on sleighs to 

The Mill at Ghost Lake 187 

the millsite. In the spring it was set up, a dock was built, and 
sawing began. The first two shipments of the new mill's output 
were sent out on the schooner Nellie Sherwood; of her unhappy 
fate a word will be said later. 

On the whole the first and second winters were normal cutting 
seasons for the woodsmen: the trees were felled and the logs so 
placed that they could be readily delivered to the saw when 
required. But there was a novel feature in the placing of the 
logs: they were tumbled indiscriminately over the precipice on 
to the huge jagged chunks of limestone that lay in a vast dis- 
orderly mass some two hundred feet below. Here they were 
gradually piled up until they formed a towering, tangled heap 
which sometimes contained as much as 200,000 feet of board 
lumber. The logs lay close to the mill to which, it seemed, they 
could be readily rolled by hand and canthook whenever needed. 
What a saving of time and labour, one is prompted to say. But 
the saving was illusory. The terrific crash of the logs falling on 
the huge rocks and on other logs so mutilated many of them that 
their wood was rendered useless except for fuel. Besides, the 
progressive deepening of the snow and ice of winter cemented the 
logs so tightly together that the heap did not thaw out till mid- 
summer, thus causing a great loss in time. Worse than that, a 
great danger was involved as well. Could a lumberman fear any- 
thing more than to have to stand at the foot of a mountain of 
logs precariously balanced on a steep slope and from that perilous 
position pry out individual pieces? It was even more hazardous 
than loosening the key-log of a jam in a rapid river. This risky 
game of jackstraws on a mammoth scale was repeated for two 
seasons, until the Lymburners plainly saw that they must quit 
it at once. But how? Here was a tough problem. To understand 
their solution we must first note how they controlled the mill's 

It had been clear at the very outset of their operations that the 
place at which to effect control was the fissure down which the 
water in the lake's short outlet disappears underground. The first 
step was to trench the outlet from the lake to the fissure, straight- 
ening and deepening the channel, and thus increasing the volume 
of flow. By planned experiment they found that in about an hour 
and a half any change in the quantity of water admitted into the 
rock at the fissure showed itself at the vent at the foot of the cliff. 
This meant that the descending subterranean passage was many 
times longer than a straight line joining the fissure and the vent, 

IS8 The Bruce Beckons 

was probably, indeed, a long winding chain of caverns "measure- 
less to man/' It also permitted the inference that through count- 
less milennia fragments of bark, lumps of mud and rotted wood, 
matted bundles of twigs and leaves sucked down by the descend- 
ing water had in many places obstructed the underground chan- 
nel and slowed down the stream flowing through it. The next 
step toward control was the erection of a sluicegate between 
the lake and the fissure. The gate was closed every night to con- 
serve water and was opened every morning early enough to allow 
the water to make its roundabout and mysterious passage through 
die earth and to begin moving the mill-wheel at the hour when 
the hands were summoned to work. 

This arrangement sufficed for the first season of sawing. During 
the second season the Lymburners extended the trench past the 
fissure in the rock to serve as a temporary flume in which to float 
logs toward the cliff. Later, this was deepened stage by stage and 
floored with heavy planking. Where the surface of the ground 
dropped below the horizontal the flume was carried on simple 
though strong trestles of heavy timbers. It terminated at the brink 
of the precipice in a slide or chute of normal construction. Yet, 
although the flume was a credit to the skill of its makers in over- 
coming formidable natural obstacles, the uncontrolled fall over 
the high cliff still caused an alarming loss of great quantities of 
valuable timber. 

After a thorough study of the problem the operators decided 
that the line of descent for the logs must be changed from the 
vertical to a slope. But how move hundreds of tons of hard 
dolomite without powder or dynamite? The determined pioneers 
drew upon the power of their wits rather than upon the power of 
explosives, which would have to be fetched from a distance at the 
cost of time and money. To the power of wits they added the 
power of water. The plan of operation was simple and direct. 

The flume, being four feet in width and three and a half in 
depth, carried a large volume of water of great potential power. 
But the chute, as we have noted, ended at the edge of the cliff; 
hence the water that passed through it was shot out into mid air 
and dropped down in foam and spray upon the jungle and 
boulders below. The result was a sheer waste of water-powerjust 
an idle sprinkling of an almost sterile wilderness. The idea that 
broke of a sudden upon the Lymburners was to apply the lost 
power to the solution of their problem. They lopped off the 

The Mill at Ghost Lake 189 

terminal section of the chute so that the end was now twelve or 
fifteen feet from the edge of the precipice. Water spouting from 
the flume would fall, not into vacant space as before, but upon a 
single spot of ground. Applied there long enough and in volume 
as well as at a high speed, the Lymbumers argued, it would rend 
even rock asunder with almost explosive power. The reasoning 
was sound: in ten minutes the thrust of the water rushing from 
the full flume with the swiftness of a cascade tore away seven 
hundred tons of hard dolomite strata, gravel and soil, and hurled 
them down the abyss. Another section of the timber framework 
was knocked off and the flood was turned on again: the result was 
equally gratifying. Yet a third time this was done. In the end, after 
not more than two hours, more than two thousand tons of material 
had been removed. Triumphantly, the hardy men of the frontier 
saw before them, not a fearsome perpendicular drop, but an even 
gradient of fifty-five degrees down which logs of all sizes could 
slide to the mill-pond undamaged. Even now, sixty-eight years 
after the event, Robert Lymbumer still feels a thrill when he re- 
calls the sight and the roar of the colossal mass of limestone and 
earth hurtling into the depths below. 

The water of the lake was so well controlled that, without the 
use of much more than the volume needed for generating the 
power., it served two other essential purposes also. At stated times 
it floated the logs through the flume and sent them slithering 
down the slope; it also kept the mill-pond filled to a depth that 
cushioned the fall of the logs and saved them from damage. The 
penstock in which the water fell upon the wheel was perpen- 
dicular and offered alternative heads of power, a normal one of 
twenty-eight feet, and a special one of, thirty-three feet. Under the 
normal head the Lymbumers cut as much as twelve thousand 
board-lumber feet in a day, and under the other, to meet un- 
usual situations, twenty-five thousand feet in a day of eleven 
hours. The output of the mill was loaded on steamers and 
schooners and shipped to the more important ports on the 
Georgian Bay. In the '-latter days of the enterprise a strong flume 
was run across the pond and through it logs were floated to a 
slide that shot them into the water of the Bay. From there they 
were towed in booms to Lion's Head and Owen Sound. 

The mill, as mills of the Ontario northland go, was a very 
modest one, but its size was in proportion to the volume of the 
forest resources upon which it drew, and, above all, it was efficient 


The Bruce Beckons 

The Mill, Georgian Bay Shore, below Ghost Lake 

and was thriftily operated. In all this it reflected the skill and 
resourcefulness of the men who built and ran it 1 

The story told by Robert Lymburner is, in general, one of which 
he may be justly proud. But it is not wholly free of the shadow of 
tragedy. The little steamer Jane Miller that landed father and 
sons on the site of the future sawmill in the spring of 1881 went 
to the bottom in November of that year. The memorable storm 
of September, 1882, that destroyed the Asia and many another 
craft of the Great Lakes also sank the schooner Nellie Sherwood, 
which had carried from the mill its first two cargoes of lumber 
and shingles. Ironically, these were the last cargoes she delivered, 
and, besides, she went down virtually in sight of the mill Finally, 
in the years after the mill had changed ownership, a sawyer was 
drowned from the small steam-tug, the Gertie, that pHed the 
waters of Ghost Lake, the second steam-powered vessel ever to 
sail on any inland lake of the county. So "Ghost Lake" it became 
in fact to the white as well as to the Indian. 

Of the speed and thoroughness with which The Bruce was 

1. Robert Lymburner has recorded all details of the devices used to make as 
81111010 as possible the whole process of conveying the timber from Gillies Lake 
to the mill. These details include the dimensions of the many forms of wood and 
iron employed. Although of too technical a nature to be given here, they deserve 
a place in the archives of Ontario's lumber industry. 

The Mill at Ghost Lake 191 

stripped of its trees there exists a record little short of appalling; 
it was written in 1879 by county valuators concerning the well- 
timbered townships whose lands had been put up for sale only in 
1870. "It would be very difficult," they reported, "to place any 
value on these townships, as we have not seen any land fit for 
cultivation. . . . The greater part of the land . . . was bought for 
the timber, and when that was taken off the land was abandoned. 
We set it down at $1.50 per acre." About ten years ago Robert 
Lymburner wrote me his own judgment in the same vein: "The 
millsite [the mill at Ghost Lake] is now a forlorn vision of waste- 
house, mill, cottages and mill all burned. There is no timber of 
value other than firewood that I know of on the whole peninsula. 
In the spring of 1920 I spent a month after the snow was gone 
estimating the assets of the man who bought me out in 1905. , . . 
I could find only $30,000 worth . . . between Hope Bay and a point 
within five miles of Tobermory." 

Today, despite the softening rains and thawing snows of nearly 
seventy years, the gradient constructed by the Lymburners, now 
covered with a binding mat of interwoven vegetation and shrub- 
bery, still maintains the angle of slope its makers gave it It may 
be scaled or descended with ease by those who have not left youth 
too far behind. In summer not a few tourists make a pastime of 
climbing it from Bay to summit. Significantly enough, the point 
at which they start is to this hour commonly known as Lym- 
burner's Dock just a few straggling, charred, and rotting planks 
and timbers of what was once a firm landing place for ships of 
deep draft. Thus historical names often outlast the material 
objects on which they have been based. 

The tale of the Mill at Ghost Lake covers the period between 
1881 and 1905. By reason of its closeness to our own times it 
may not seem to illustrate the pioneering of Ontario. Unfortu- 
nately, the common habit of thinking of the pioneer stage of this 
province as belonging exclusively to the early decades of the last 
century has warped the historical perspective of most people. We 
must remember this: the pioneer stage can be repeated at any 
time in any unoccupied region, even though this should lie geo- 
graphically close to long-inhabited areas, whenever brave and 
farseeing souls become the first to explore and develop its re- 
sources. The Lymburners were pioneers because they brought 
to new lands the spirit, intelligence, and industry our forefathers 
brought to their uncleared tracts farther south a century before. 

Chapter 18 


AS we know, the mill at Ghost Lake was not the only saw- 
mill of the early days of The Brace. Of the others not a few 
have left behind fragments of stories telling of mingled 
success and failure. Some of these are written in the form of 
ashes, rotten logs, and crumbling stone walls and foundations 
spread over the barren surface of unsightly clearings. Indeed, 
several of these stories of unlucky venture can be found, in certain 
files, recorded in the red ink of still unpaid bank borrowings. 
One of the brighter tales, though not wholly untarnished by spells 
of discouragement, concerns the sawmill whose buildings still 
stand on the west side of Stokes Bay. Though lacking the glamour 
that gives a unique glow to the name of Ghost Lake, its story is 
well worth telling if only to underline something that is already 
obvious: that different people adjust themselves in different ways 
to the stern challenges of the frontier wilderness. 

Stokes Bay, as has been said, is by far the largest of the deep 
indentations in the Lake Huron shore of the Peninsula. It lies, 
most conveniently, almost midway between the base of the long 
arm of limestone and its tip; it is dotted with islands divided from 
one another by channels of fair depth. Its main channel is deep 
enough to float safely modem lake vessels of moderate draft. This 
fact and the presence on its shores of heavy stands of mixed soft- 
wood and hardwood made the bay a natural scene of a lumber 

How soon after 1870, the year when the lands of Lindsay 
Township were first put up for sale, the first mill was built on 
Tamarac Island, no one now remembers. It is enough to know 
that at some time, apparently in the eighties, a St. Catharines man 
was operating a mill there on the spot where the present buildings 
stand. It is an ideal situation. The island is separated from the 
mainland by a channel easily spanned by a bridge of long pine 
trunks. In those days before man began tinkering with Great 


The Mitt at Stokes Bay 193 

Lakes levels the depth of water in the channel did not vary as 
much as it does now. 

Tamarac Island is a long narrow limestone ridge, to which the 
last glacier neatly gave an outline reminding one of the sole of a 
shoe, rising to a height of between thirty and forty feet above the 
normal level of the lake. Of its sixty-odd acres fifteen at the north 
end were cleared, these affording ample space for all require- 
ments: mill, boiler-house, office, houses, barn, narrow-gauge tram 
lines running on wooden rails, a limited area for piled lumber, 
and, finally, a slab dock. The mill proper was erected close to the 
end of the bridge, while most of the other buildings were set upon 
the summit of the island overlooking Stokes Bay. On summer 
evenings the workers could from the front windows of their dwel- 
lings see the flashing of the Southampton light thirty-five miles 
to the south, a reminder that, after all, the wild is nearer to the 
collective life of organized society than it may seem to be. 

Despite its advantages, however, the first mill at Stokes Bay did 
not prosper. Evidently its owner limited his interest, as the de- 
mands of the time dictated, to pine. His failure was probably due 
to lack of care in estimating the amount of that kind of timber 
in the region; the fact is that hereabouts nature had been rather 
niggardly in her distribution of it. Besides, the best of the pines 
she had planted there had been cut before -the mill was built. 
The upshot was that the builder-owner sold out to a well-known 
company. The experience of the purchaser was as unhappy as 
that of the vendor had been. The mill, its accessory buildings, and 
its adjoining forest were soon abandoned and allowed to lie idle 
for many years. Anyone who has ever seen a long-abandoned 
property of this kind and its carelessly cut-over lands with their 
tangle of slash will need no description of its condition when 
in 1899 a prospective buyer looked it over. 

As usual, it was a pressing economic need that prompted the 
bold thought of acquiring so unpromising a property. By 1899 the 
furniture manufacturers of Ontario using great quantities of hard- 
woods were confronted with a dearth of supplies. Central Ontario 
had been stripped and importation from the United States was so 
costly as to Mil all chances of profit. New native sources must be 
found. An enterprising firm of Western Ontario 1 sent into The 

1. For some of the details of tihi story the author is indebted to a souvenir 
pamphlet, Our Rise from the Ashes, published in 1901 by this company, the 
forerunner of the Knechtel companies now operating in Hanover. 

194 The Bruce Beckons 

Bruce its chief officers and several experienced hands to make a 
careful survey of hardwood re'sources. In the language of the 
lumberman, hardwood is, strictly speaking, any wood that is not 
red pine or white pine. Actually, many woods that are as soft as 
pine (basswood, for example) are classified as hardwoods. But 
the firm really sought in this instance genuine hardwoods, the 
kind to which the veriest amateur would apply that term. After 
many weeks of exploring the investigators purchased the now pre- 
maturely old and decrepit mill at Stokes Bay and a large tract of 
timbered lands. They could not help coming across many a 
rattlesnake the small Massasauga of the Lower Lake region; 
indeed, so numerous were they on Tamarac Island that it seemed 
to be the capital city of that species of reptile for the whole 
Peninsula. But that did not retard in the slightest the decision to 
buy; in fact, it appeared to be just another challenge of the wild 
to add to the romance of a struggle against heavy odds. 

The decision, taken in the light of two lamentable failures on 
the site, was in large part an act of faith. But the buyers were also 
influenced by the magnet of speculation; there was reason to 
believe that something might happen which would sooner or later 
enhance the value of their purchase and enlarge their prospective 
field of operations. In new lands the usual bait is the promise of 
a railway dangled before colonists' noses, and this was the very 
bait used here. It worked, too, not as the chief factor, but rather 
as that additional element men welcome as a bolster to an already 
reasonable hope. 

At the turn of the century there was a growing demand for 
railways to open up new lands and to shrink distances. This was 
true of the nearer west and farther west alike. The prairies were 
rebelling against the alleged tyranny of their only transconti- 
nental railway, a private company; they clamoured for a second 
line and for answer got the promise of the Grand Trunk Pacific 
and the extension of the Mackenzie and Mann rails. Sault Ste 
Marie, in the new territory of the nearer west, had but one rail 
connection with eastern Canada the Canadian Pacific which 
afforded only a long, roundabout service to Toronto and the 
populous southwestern peninsula of Ontario. It was natural that 
Mr. F. H. Clergue, the energetic and far-seeing head of the 
Algoma Steel Corporation, should desire a short route from "The 
Soo" to this latter region. 

The Grand Trunk railhead in Bruce county was at Wiarton, 

The Mill at Stokes Bay 195 

where half a century later it still is, at the very base of the 
Peninsula. To extend the rails for fifty miles to Tobermory and 
its deep, safe, and spacious harbour, at the tip of the Peninsula, 
involved no great difficulties of construction. Equally easy was the 
laying of a line across Manitoulin Island and the bridging of the 
narrow North Channel at Little Current to carry the rails to the 
North Shore and to connect them there with the already existing 
service. The only serious problem was that presented by the 
fifteen odd miles of straits separating "The Tub" from the Mani- 
toulin. But the precedent of the train-ferry service on the United 
States side over the Strait of Mackinac erased this difficulty from 
the promoters* blueprints. 

Encouraged by his careful calculations, Mr. Clergue was by 
1901 holding out to the people of the Peninsula the bright hope 
that in two years he would have his railway actually operating 
between lower Ontario and the North Shore. That his intentions 
were serious seemed to be confirmed by the fact that he took the 
time and incurred considerable expense to have two separate 
surveys of alternative routes made in the space of two or three 
years. The new owners of the mill on Stokes Bay seized on the 
promise and with pardonable jubilation announced to their public 
that the survey of the new line "runs almost through the centre 
of our timber lands. The construction of this railway will enable 
us to ship logs and lumber from our own reserves and from other 
peninsula and North Shore points to the doors of our Hanover 
Mill and factories without transhipment." Altogether the expecta- 
tions of things to come were as rosy as a Lake Huron sunset. 

The reference to sunset is a prophecy after the event. The 
Bnice and North Shore Railway experienced an early sunset 
a sunset without a sunrise that ever got past the stage of sanguine 
hope. Like many another project of its kind, it began to run im- 
pressively on paper from Somewhere to Somewhither, but ended 
by running from Nowhere to Nowhither. The worst that can be 
said of the effort is that it failed; it appears to have been free of 
high-pressure stock salesmanship and of the scandals that so often 
go with it. What happened? One can only wonder: probably a 
few factors of insignificant appearance but really vital for the 
profitable and continuous operation of a railway had been left out 
of the initial calculations. Happily, they were detected before it 
was too late. 

But, railway or no railway, the owners of the mill sawed wood. 


The Bruce Beckons 

The Mill, Tamarac Island, Stokes Bay 

They rebuilt the run-down mill and the other buildings. They laid 
the four-by-four square cedar rails on which to run the tramway 
carrying lumber or slabs from the mill to the bayside. Of the 
slabsall waste then they built a wharf to which tugs or rafts 
could be moored for loading with sawn lumber. Some of the 
rails are still in place, a tribute to the workmen who laid them 
and to the lasting qualities of our native white cedar. Under the 
direction of a young and vigorous superintendent who was 
"thoroughly up in milling, timbering and rafting in all their 
branches/' they turned out their products in abundance and pros- 
pered, as the record quaintly puts it, "in the home of the deer, 
the bear and the rattlesnake." The chief woods taken out of the 
forest and passed through the mill were yellow birch, beech, ash, 
elm, and maple. Of the last there was not a great quantity, since 
it is much less common on the Lake Huron side than on the 
Georgian Bay side of the Peninsula. There was a good deal of 
hemlock and a little jack pine, but a paucity of white pine. 

Of the hardwoods both logs and lumber were shipped to 
Southampton by raft or steamer as required. Some of the wood 

The Mill at Stokes Bay 197 

was used in the company's factory at Southampton and the re- 
mainder was transported by rail to its factories in Hanover and 
Walkerton. The soft woods, for which the company had no direct 
use, were disposed of in various ways. 

You cannot eat your cake and have it too. The old adage is 
especially applicable to industries that rely upon the forest. It 
has taken the people of Canada a long time to learn even the 
rudiments of this lesson, and even yet they have not learned them 
well. Only now are they in the first stage of making restitution, 
through systematic planting, for their wanton plundering of the 
forest. The millers at Stokes Bay, denied the fulfilment of the 
railway's promise of supplies from the north, soon realized that 
their timber "limits" were really limits, that their boundaries con- 
tained just so much wood and no more. In a few years there was 
no longer any hardwood left in commercial quantities. The mill 
simply closed itself. One of two courses was open to the owners: 
to follow the bad example of their predecessors by abandoning 
the mill to the ravages of the wild, or to preserve the plant by 
adapting it to some novel use. Prompted by a sound business 
sense, which, after all, is only another form of honest thrift, they 
summarily rejected the first course. There remained a real problem 
to solve. But the persistence and imagination of an honest pioneer 
spirit solved it. 

A systematic accounting of the whole situation was set up. The 
liabilities bulked large and foreboding: long distances, poor roads 
that were no more than rough trails winding through forests and 
swamps and around dolomite ridges, inadequate sources of food 
supplies, and the slow pace of horse-drawn vehicles. No "horse 
and buggy doctor" was ever confronted by worse roads. The re- 
maining approach to the mill by water from Southampton lay over 
thirty or more miles of open lake and was therefore not encoura- 
ging, either for sailing-craft or for the still experimental and un- 
trustworthy motor-boat. On the other hand, there were the assets: 
an excellent plant consisting of a mill of two storeys, an engine- 
house, a bam, several houses, a slab dock, all compactly grouped 
together in a single unit situated on an island approached by a 
bridge which guaranteed complete privacy; in adjoining waters 
black bass in numbers beyond the southern sportsman's wildest 
dream, and, each in its season, wild duck and other waterfowl, 
partridge, deer, and bear; above all, there was the sure promise 
of complete change and rest for the man jaded by the labours and 

198 The Bruce Beckons 

strains of town life. On balance, the assets won; that is to say, 
sanity, a true sense of conservation, and a sound knowledge of 
human instinct prevailed. The mill was to become a sportsmen's 

To the planning of this the management gave the same careful 
thought that it gave to its prime concern manufacturing. And 
why not? The transaction was but another phase of the company's 
affairs. A penny saved here was a penny earned for the business. 
The policy was dictated by a shrewd moderation which gave it 
the double aim of guaranteeing a sale and of putting the club on 
a sound foundation. The price was made temptingly reasonable 
and the scale of payments easy. The immediate result was to band 
together a group of business men infused with the enthusiasm 
common to anglers the world over. That at first all these were 
leading representatives of the furniture industry was only natural; 
the law of propinquity and community of interest is more des- 
potic than we generally think. The fact that in later years the 
membership degenerated through the admission of a few aca- 
demicians and professional men is not to be counted a blot on 
the founders' escutcheon. 

But the founders effected a still greater result, one which they 
probably never dreamed of, but the credit for which we must not 
grudge them. The spirit of conservation which impelled them to 
salvage a very doubtful asset, such as any old sawmill in the 
bush really is, infected the whole membership of the club. It 
spread to the inhabitants of the region and touched even the 
casual tourist who came that way. So a new community grew up, 
a community that is still growing. From it has emanated an in- 
fluence which has helped inspire the entire county to make a 
survey of the Peninsula's unique variety of resources and at length 
to adopt policies definitely aimed at conserving the resources that 
remain, and also at restoring, so far as possible, those that have 
been impaired by the thoughtless rapacity of the first generation 
of bush-raiders. The promise of a new-old Bruce is alluringly 
bright. The people of the county have caught the vision of it 
and in its light have seen their duty to their children and their 
children's children. Already they have bought in the region of 
Miller Lake about midway between Stokes Bay and Tobermory 
7,200 acres of burnt and cut-over wilderness. On this "Miller 
Lake Reserve" the skill of the trained forester and Nature's own 
woodcraft will work together to restore, as by instalments, its 

The Mill at Stokes Bay 199 

plundered wealth of trees. Within the limits of the reserve a 
suitable area will some day be set aside as a sanctuary in which 
a unique wild lifeplant and animal alike will be allowed to 
strike its own balance and to serve as a lodestone to draw to it 
all citizens who find in its wonders a tonic for spirits jaded by 
the affairs and works of men. 

A year or two ago an old member of the club, a professional 
man who lives in one of the great American cities, said to the 
writer: "In August of 1911 I was present at the mill when the 
whistle blew to stop work for the last time. Everybody there knew 
what it meant and we were all solemn. Although I was a kid I 
was solemn too. Somehow we felt that in that little world of rock, 
water, and exhausted forest a new local era was beginning; in 
short, we felt that somebody had 'started something/ But little 
did we realize that that something was much more than a mere 
band of anglers and hunters bent apparently only on health and 
pleasure, but rather a progressive and contagious influence work- 
ing towards a sound restoration of the wealth of the wilderness/' 


Old Log House with Guardian Lilacs 

Chapter 19 


A FTER the Jesuit Mission to the Hurons came to its tragic 

/I end in 1650 1 nearly two centuries passed before the white 
_/ \_man renewed his eflForts to bring his religion to the Indians 
of the Peninsula. In 1834 the Reverend Thomas Hurlburt, a 
Methodist, started a mission among the Saugeen people on their 
lands near the present Southampton. He must have been a man 
of great energy and tact and of self-effacing devotion, for when 
after three years he moved to another field he left behind him a 
congregation of about one hundred persons. To this day most of 
the Indians of the Saugeen Reserve belong to the United Church 
of Canada, the successor of the Methodist body. 

Early in the 1850's the Methodists established a mission to the 
Ojibways living on the tract on the south side of Colpoy's Bay 
on which the village of Oxenden now stands. The headship of this 
outpost of the church was entrusted to James Atkey, a newcomer 
from the Isle of Wight and a man of apostolic zeal and initiative. 
He divided his time between caring for the needs of his flock 
and earning a living by doing the odd and sundry public chores 
common to frontier settlements. Irked by the sluggish pace of 
sail he saw in steam alone the means of broadening the range of 
his pastoral travels. With a steamboat, he reckoned, he could 
easily visit Christian Island and help open a mission station there. 
So with a local "jack-knife carpenter" and a few Indians he set 
himself to the task of building a steamer. 

In the last weeks of a winter the year now unknown the hull 
of a twenty-five foot craft was completed at Oxenden and the 
engine and boiler, brought from Toronto, were installed. The little 
steamer's maiden trip to Owen Sound was most satisfactory. Tying 
her up to the dock the builders spent a restful night in town. But 
what they saw on the waterfront next morning was anything but 
restful: their proud queen of the waves lay many feet out of sight 

1. See chap. Ill, "An Unknown Land." 


204 The Bruce 

on the bed of the Sydenham River. Her missionary service was 
ended before it had begun. Her engine was taken out and put 
to work in the town tannery. A fiasco? Not at all: Mr. Atkey's 
enterprise established the Indians' confidence in him as one who 
spared himself no effort to promote their welfare. Besides, the 
good missionary made history: his nameless steamboat was one of 
the first to have been built on Lake Huron. 

When the white man took over the former Indian lands of 
The Bruce, the record of the Sky Pilot at every stage of settlement 
was as notable as it was noble. Indeed, he made himself as much 
a pioneer as any member of his lock, in the field of soil and 
stump as well as in the field of the spirit. His people's life was his 
life: when they exulted over the good fruits of- their toil and 
anxious thought, he exulted with them; in their griefs he sorrowed 
too. In only a few settlements did his person fail to become the 
living symbol of the frontier. 

In the diary 1 of William Simpson, the first settler of Amabel 
Township in the Peninsula, the role of the Sky Pilot in the frontier 
community stands out as sharply as do the struggles and hardships 
of the settlers themselves. In 1855, as soon as the former Indian 
lands were offered to the public, Simpson chose his tract (near 
what is now the village of Parkhead) and signed for it. In the 
very next spring he began the work of removing the brush and 
trees and built himself a log cabin. His first harvest yielded 105 
stocks of good wheat; his great delight in this success banished all 
his fears for the long years ahead. The second and third harvests 
were equally good and hopes rode high like the sun at noon in 
a clear sky. Of a sudden came the chill and darkness of clouds 
and the crash of storm. The item in Simpson's diary for July 16, 
I860, makes sad reading. "A thunder shower about daybreak 
was followed by a tremendous hailstorm, the hailstones being 
about the size of small hens' eggs. The storm almost destroyed 
the whole crop . . . wheat, peas, corn and potatoes, and caused a 
great deal of destruction in the whole settlement." For the com- 
forting words of a Sky Pilot the settlers had to wait a whole year. 

Their first parson (who was also reeve of Amabel Township) 
was the Reverend Ludwig Kribbs of Colpoy's Bay; he conducted 
occasional services, now in the settlers' homes, now in the school- 

1. Parts of this diary are quoted by Simpson's daughter, the late Mrs. B. C. 
Ashcroft, of Howdenvale, in certain papers she read before local historical 

Piloting on the New Frontier 205 

house. After Kribbs, the settlement was served by a series of 
other devoted men. The variety of the ways in which they 
ministered to their people was amazing. Most of these were of 
the kind one would normally expect of the cloth, but many were 
spontaneous, generous responses to the urgent call of unforeseen 
emergencies. There was never any lack of will or effort. 

The experience of the Reverend Mr. Colling one Sunday in 
September of 1863 was just part of the day's work. He had come 
on horseback to conduct an afternoon service in the Simpson 
settlement. As he was approaching the place of meeting some- 
body spied a bear in a .nearby oatfield. For a time the animal, 
without marked alarm, kept eyeing the assembling people and 
then started to shuffle off toward the woods that bounded the fai 
side of the field. Flouting the ancient commandment forbidding 
physical labour on the Sabbath, the young parson and William 
Simpson made up their minds that the creature would never reach 
the shelter of the trees. Stealthily they made a broad encircling 
movement and placed themselves squarely between the bear and 
the woods. Each of the men picked up a field stone small enough 
to be grasped firmly in the hand but large enough to deal a heavy 
blow. Thus armed they attacked the bear. Three or four well- 
directed clouts stunned the animal and a few more killed him. As 
if nothing unusual had happened the two men went to the place 
of worship, the one to preach, the other to hear the message. The 
service over, parson and layman skinned the bear with their 
pocket knives. For many winters thereafter the Reverend Mr. 
Colling drove abroad in his cutter under the comfortable cover 
of a bearskin robe. 

One of the virtues the frontiersman anywhere has to acquire 
is the habit of waiting patiently. The Amabel community had to 
wait for a regular house of worship all their own, as they had had 
to wait for a Sky Pilot. In 1867, with the advent of a new minister, 
their waiting came to an end. From the adjoining frontier town- 
ship of Brant the Reverend David Williams brought with him a 
gift just as essential to the discharge of his duties as were his 
native vigour, clear vision, and vibrant leadership: this was actual 
experience in raising the lowly logs of the forest to the high 
dignity of homes, schools, and houses of Christian worship. Just 
as the people of Jerusalem under Nehemiah rebuilt their city with 
sword and trowel, so did the people of this pioneer township of 
The Bruce build, on the Simpson homestead, their first meeting 

206 The Bruce Beckons 

house with axe, saw, and hammer. In every stage of the work the 
Sky Pilot was a pilot indeed: it was he who showed the way. With 
equal skill and energy he aided many of his parishioners in erect- 
ing domiciles on their new acres. Need we wonder that he held 
his whole flock, youth and adult alike, in the hollow of his hand? 
When at last the time came to dedicate the church the spirits 
of the people of the whole region were low: a series of storms and 
late frosts had made the prospects for the crops very dark. Some 
of the weaker souls were beginning to murmur aloud against 
Providence, to charge their Land of Promise with breaking its 
word. The prevailing mood plainly called for a balanced mixture 
of rebuke and encouragement. To be effective the message had to 
come from one who was known to be acquainted with the facts 
and fears of the settler's life. Manifestly, this was David Williams' 
supreme opportunity. The crisis itself, not his studied choice, put 
into his mouth the text of his dedication sermon, these words in 
the eleventh chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. 

For the land, whither them goest to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, 
from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed and wateredst 
it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; 

But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, 
and drinketh water of the rain of heaven; 

A land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy 
God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the 
end of the year. 

Often in later years did Simpson, as his daughter, Mrs. Ashcroft, 
used to tell, recall, with amusement and approval, the new spirit 
instilled overnight into the whole countryside by the first sermon 
delivered in its first house of worship. The text was itself a sermon; 
the preacher's part lay in his skilful play with emphasis, his con- 
trol of a good voice, the manifest sincerity of his sympathy, and 
his unshaken faith in the bright promise of the land which God 
had given his parishioners. 

But, you protest, this story is no new one; during the whole 
nineteenth century the role of the parson on the frontiers of 
settlement was the same everywhere on this continent; conditions 
are different now. But are they different? Assuredly not, even 
today, in the upper townships of the Bruce Peninsula. I am speak- 
ing of what I have seen and know. The Sky Pilot whom I saw in 
the midst of his labours on this frontier only a few short years ago 
followed the pattern set by his forerunners on the older frontiers; 

Piloting on the New Frontier 207 

and the influence of his example has passed far beyond the 
borders of his ample parish. Of such moment was it to his diocese 
that he was accorded the title and function of Canon. After 
twenty-two years of self-effacing service he was moved, in suc- 
cession, to two large rural parishes in old southern Ontario. Not 
long since, still running strong on the last lap of the seventies, he 
was permitted to begin enjoying (but, true to himself, far from 
idly) amid a scene of hills, woods, and waters dear to his heart, 
a well-earned withdrawal from the ceaseless round of pastoral 

It was as recently as 1911 that Parson James went to the Parish 
of Lion's Head with its Home Station of Christchurch and its 
widespread cluster of mission stations. Lion's Head is a village 
that lies at the head of Isthmus Bay. Though small in size, it has 
always been important in its region as a port with a two-way 
traffic, at once a depot and a point of distribution for the fishing 
industry, and more recently as a growing rendezvous for tourists 
and campers. In the full circle of the year it is concerned with a 
much greater variety of interests than its size would lead one to 
expect. In short, it is a place where human relationships are numer- 
ous and complex, the very kind of place where the hand, heart, 
and head of the Sky Pilot are sorely needed. 

When posted to Lion's Head by his bishop Parson James exulted 
in the opportunity opened to him, for he is one of the few who 
know without being taught that of all places on earth it is on the 
frontier that one can best see the tremendous power that one man 
can become. Keenly was he aware of the great length and 
breadth of his parish almost the southern half of the Peninsula. 
Apart from his sundry visits of duty to many widely scattered 
homes he had a preaching schedule which, be it summer, be it 
winter, sent him forth in the short span of a fortnight over many 
scores of miles of atrocious roads. But thought of the repeated 
ordeal did not cool his ardour. 

Here, in the barest detail, was his itinerary as he sketched it 
for me only a short while ago: to get its true measure read it with 
the map before you. "In my time we usually ran the Lion's Head 
service in the morning, Hope Bay in the afternoon, and Purple 
Valley at night The following Sunday we held the Lion's Head 
service in the evening, Hopeness in the morning and St. 
Margaret's, which was called McCallum's schoolhouse in the old 
days, in the afternoon. At first we used to go to Stokes Bay on the 


The Bruce Beckons 


The Sky Pilot on His Rounds 

other side of the Peninsula on a weekday, usually Wednesday, and 
conduct a service at eight o'clock in the evening. But later when 
the timber had been about all cut and fishing was poor, we had 
to give up regular services. But I did continue to visit their sick 
and needy besides, as you know, catching the odd fish. . . ." 
Of course, Parson James was not the first man of his calling to 
have an experience of this kind; it was the experience common to 
the "circuit riders" of all faiths on the outer fringes of settlement 
in America. But that does not lessen our wonder and gratitude 
that despite the strain of ceaseless travel he was spared for almost 
a generation to carry on his paternal ministry with unimpaired 
zeal and health. 

A man's true self is many a time shown up by matters that seem 
of little account. This is most apt to occur in cases in which an 
ethical principle is suddenly involved, especially in cases where 
the difference between right and wrong is so slight that some 
minds are highly amused to think that anybody can see it there 
at all. It was a trivial affair of this sort which, so long ago that 
Parson James has forgotten it, revealed to me his real fibre. He 
himself was blissfully unaware at the time that he was revealing 
anything but two or three speckled trout under legal size. 

All his life an ardent addict of the angle, he took me one day 
to a unique watercourse famous for its trout. Most of its water 
comes from a single spring, a phenomenal pool in the limestone 

Piloting on the New Frontier 209 

that is fully a hundred feet across and thirty feet deep. The stream 
that empties it runs north for several miles into Judge's Creek. 
What makes it unique is that for the last mile before its confluence 
with the creek its waters have at some time been diverted by 
road-makers into a deep straight ditch that parallels the road. 
One cannot help suspecting that in planning this great rearrange- 
ment the workmen had an eye chiefly to the convenience of 

And how that artificial watercourse teemed with trout! In that 
long-past day when the road was new, clumps of lush grasses 
hung over the edges of the ditch like seaweed over tidal rocks. 
There were great mats of watercress there too. No brook trout 
anywhere ever had more lairs from which to choose their watch- 
ful stations. For the angler who does not spurn the lowly worm 
the setting was perfect. You stood dryshod on the firm edge of the 
road, dropped your hook straight into the ribbon of running water 
below you and at your ease drew up your fish. In a jiffy, it seemed, 
you had filled your creel. Only one obstacle hovered between you 
and perfection: there were too many under-sized trout 

A silly objection? Far from it. The excess put the angler in a 
most embarrassing dilemma. He could not prevent the greedy 
tiddlers from biting; on the other hand the Law said: put back 
into the water unharmed any trout under seven inches. The 
angler's mind became an arena in which conscience fought 
against herself. With one voice she said, "Obey the Law," and 
with another, "It is wicked to waste good food." It was really a 
lesson in human nature to observe how summarily most of the 
anglers that lined the ditch resolved the dilemma: "The small 
trout won't live anyway/' they said, "so let's take a chance with 
the Law/' 

And one day the Law came, came riding in a chariot so marked 
that even the most careless eye could not miss it. Cunningly it 
parked by the column of anglers* cars in such a way that none 
could slip out unchallenged. A visible shiver of anxiety passed 
down the extended file of sportsmen ranged along the ditch; the 
Parson was the only one of them that showed no concern. The 
Law took pains to display a game warden's badge and ostenta- 
tiously drew from a pocket a notebook in which in a workaday 
fashion it proceeded to write copiously as it examined one creel 
after another. Harsh sounds of angry protest and argument 
reached our ears. For us at the south end of the file there was no 

210 The Bruce Beckons 

escape, for the Law was operating between us and our car. As 
for myself I fished on as though deaf, dumb, and blind. 

At last the Law strode up to us; fortunately, it looked at the 
Parson first. The guileless smiles that wreathed his face were 
completely disarming. Without waiting to be questioned he 
reached down into a deep pocket of his Norfolk jacket and drew 
out his morning's catch three tiny six-inch trout. So badly 
wounded were they that to throw them back into the stream 
would have been nothing else than an absurd, pedantic act of 
conformity to the text of a statute. Plainly, the Law had a sense 
of real justice; as it stood by this unique trout brook it looked the 
Church squarely in the face and found it honest. With a cordial 
wave of the hand that carried acquittal at once to the Church and 
the Church's companion, the Law pocketed its notebook with an 
air of finality, turned right about face, and walked away. Through- 
out this informal trial under the open sky not a word was spoken, 
except perhaps a "good morning/' Never in all my days have I 
felt more ashamed of myself: during all this pantomime my creel 
containing half a dozen illegal fish lay hidden beneath a clump of 
grass almost at the Law's very feet. I had been shielded by a 
frankness ,and an honesty that neither I nor any others of that 
long column of anglers possessed. Here, I said to myself, is a man 
untainted by hypocrisy, a minister worthy of his cloth. No wonder 
he is loved and trusted. But was his action just a "trivial" thing? 
For the answer, ask any angler. Then consider this a moment: a 
fortnight after the Law's visitation we heard its result: three 
costly angling outfits rods, reels, and creels became the property 
of the Crown. 

On the margin of the wilderness there is only one accepted 
measure of a Sky Pilot's qualification for his mission the way in 
which he responds to the calls of need and of anxious hearts. 
When in deep distress the common man anywhere finds no real 
solace in nice pulpit homilies and' the recital of pious texts; 
prompt, heartfelt sympathy in the form of action is the only 
pastoral offering that means anything. If given even at the cost 
of slight sacrifice, its genuineness is established forever in the 
mind that sorrows; if given without thought of risk to body or 
health, it wins lifelong devotion. 

It is an ancient way of human society to desire to honour its 
dead in burial even at the cost of great inconvenience. Many 
years ago during the period of autumn storms a worthy matron 

Piloting on the New Frontier 211 

of Lion's Head passed away; her husband expressed to Parson 
James the wish that she be buried in the family plot at Clarksburg 
sixty miles away on the south side of the Georgian Bay. Distance 
and the state of the roads forbade the journey by land. The storm 
then raging over the Bay made the bravest spirit think many 
times before boarding a vessel. Yet the water route was the only 
route feasible. "I'll go with you/' said the parson to the husband, 
"if you can find a crew." Inspired by this lead a crew formed at 
once and out into the storm they went on a steam fishing-tug. 

The greatest danger that confronted the skipper was not the 
seas but the dense fog. In passing out of the harbour he was 
unable to see even the faintest outline of the towering bkdf with 
the lion's head. Invisible too would be similar landmarks along 
the route, Cape Croker and Cape Rich, for instance. He could 
make his course only by dead reckoning. At best he could ad- 
vance only at a crawl and could not hope to reach his port before 
the blackness of night would be added to the deep grey of the 
fog. With skill and intelligent boldness he steered the tug straight 
to the little dock at Clarksburg as if he had had the full light of 
day all around him. But it was beyond his power to provide a 
calm landing; the waves surging shoreward lifted the tug high 
by the stern and thrust her bow up on a flat rock. However no 
serious damage was done to man or property, and all on board 
went ashore safely. Then in affectionate tribute to a worthy 
Christian soul and her loved ones the parson gladly did his duty. 

But for Parson James that test of wave, wind, and fog lasted only 
a day. Later there came a test that was drawn out for many days 
and many nights: it was truly "the terror by night . . , the arrow 
that flieth by day . . . the pestilence that walketh in darkness . . . 
the destruction that wasteth at noonday." It was the influenza 
epidemic of the winter of 1918-19, the first winter after World 
War I. In the summer of 1919 I was fishing for bass out of Stokes 
Bay; everybody in the region was talking of the beloved Sky 
Pilot, of how, as many persons in one, he had brought the popu- 
lation through the plague in the winter just past As yet I had 
never set eyes on the man but when I met him not long afterwards 
I felt I knew him already. Even the first words I heard him speak 
threw light upon his real self. Embarrassed by a stranger's com- 
ment upon the great part he had played in ministering to the 
needs of the whole community during the recent ordeal, he dis- 
missed the implied praise with a wave of the hand. "I was nothing 

212 The Bruce Beckons 

more than a hybrid between a parson and a taxi driver. Now, 
let's go fishing!" 

When at last the "flu" broke into the fastnesses of The Bruce 
it took everybody by surprise. The great headland was so remote 
from crowded centres, where the plague was raging, and its air 
and waters were so pure, that it seemed assured of complete im- 
munity. At any rate for a number of weeks its people were spared 
the horror that scourged the rest of the country. But one day the 
dread infection broke through the wall of isolation. It was brought 
in from the outer world by some one who was quite unaware of 
the viper that lurked in his person. Suddenly stricken with a 
strange debility he called the doctor. The doctor was baffled and 
while he was making a vain study of the case two other cases 
were reported. Then without warning he himself became a fourth 
case and the members of his family followed him in rapid suc- 
cession. Now he knew what his patient's trouble-was. How foolish 
to think that a plague that leaped over the Atlantic could be 
stopped by a strip of forest and highlands! 

The distress in Lion's Head and its hinterland was appalling. 
No qualified doctor, no nurse could be brought in from outside 
because, all outside was in the same plight. Scarcely a home in the 
spacious tract of field and bushland between Georgian Bay and 
Lake Huron entirely escaped the pest and in many not a soul 
had sufficient strength even to crawl from bed. In some house- 
holds food lay spoiling in kitchen and larder, while in others 
foodstuffs of all sorts had been consumed and no one was in a 
state to sally forth and replenish the store. Stoves went out, some 
because no fuel remained indoors, others, because there was no 
one able to feed them. Farm animals were starving in stall and pen 
and men and women and children were dying. This was the news 
that flooded the village telephone exchange over the long many- 
party rural line. The horror of the reports was frightful enough 
but it was magnified by common knowledge that all the roads 
were buried deep in snow. 

Somehow every crisis in human affairs discovers its own leader. 
In its dire trouble Lion's Head was no exception. Its leader was 
already there Parson James. With quiet though firm power he 
took over; as if it were a daily routine the community accepted 
him, not as one man, however, but as a host in himself doctor, 
nurse, deliveryrnan, handyman, stoker, regional relief officer, and, 
all the time, as comforter of grieving souls. At night he was nurse 

Piloting on the New Frontier 21S 

to the doctor himself, alert to stave off the critical stage of haemor- 
rhage. By day, sometimes alone, sometimes with companions, he 
made as many calls with team and sleigh as any doctor would 
have made within the limits of physical strength and so far as 
snow and roads permitted. Outwardly the good man seemed to 
have no fear for himself. Years ago I asked him this question, 
rather bluntly, I fear: "Is it true that you were not conscious of 
fear of catching the 'flu' yourself?" The reply was clear-cut: "It's 
not true at all; of course I was afraid. At first I was ashamed, but 
when it dawned on me that fear of that kind is perfectly natural 
for anybody I saw it would be crazy to fight it. So I took it for 
granted like an ugly wart or a birthmark and forgot all about 
it. I soon found that at every crisis there was within me a strength 
I never knew I had." 

Parson James's efforts were rewarded by the recovery of most 
of his patients. But one phase of the situation in particular dis- 
quieted him: he saw that the period of slow convalescence from 
the extreme weakness left by the infection was going to be long; 
there was a shortage of hands to carry on the ordinary tasks of the 
community. So he took on himself a new duty to spur his fellow- 
citizens to appeal to the provincial Department of Health for 
an experienced physician. Still not a single qualified man could be 
found, not even a nurse. But the Department did post to the 
emergency a young graduate in medicine who as yet had not 
obtained his licence to practice. He, poor fellow, though still 
youthful and vigorous, soon wilted under the strain of making 
his visits in the company of the parson. Sometimes the two made 
as many as thirty calls in twenty-four hours, driving through deep 
drifts and over the Forty Hills and back. Into the young man's 
place soon came a successor, then another and still another; in 
the course of the next six months a veritable procession of medical 
recruits filed into Lion's Head and out again in rapid succession. 
Measured by the gravity of the need most of these fleeting 
guardians of local health fell sadly short of the ideals of the pro- 
fession they were planning to enter. Some of them refused to 
make night calls. Some charged fees that would have strained 
city purses. One had to be dragged to attend a patient whose life 
was ebbing fast. Yet even with such uncertain associates at his 
side Parson James gave leadership in a work of mercy and healing 
that was worthy of one who had been trained in the art. 

Many of the scenes he witnessed were harrowing; many were 

214 The Bruce Beckons 

bewildering enough to break the mind of a man devoid of poise 
and a quick sense of humour. In not a few of these Parson James 
perceived amusing incongruities that for the moment made sights 
of pain and sorrow less hard to bear. Often the irony was grim 
indeed. One instance is a classic of its kind in illustrating the 
curious genius of the rural party-telephone. One pitch-black night 
in mid winter at the peak of the epidemic a telephone call for 
help came from a home several miles up country. "Yes, we'll go/' 
replied the Parson, "if the horses can pull us through. But mark the 
way into your place by hanging out a lantern." When the two 
messengers of mercy had ioundered a mile or two along the road 
they realized, to their consternation, that the way into every home 
was marked by a lantern! 

At long last the epidemic, like a forest fire, burned itself out. 
One could almost hear the sigh of relief that passed like a sooth- 
ing breeze over the Peninsula in the wake of the certain knowl- 
edge that the great fear had gone by. But its end was not the end 
of the appeals for the Parson's help in meeting emergencies. In- 
deed, they seemed to increase in number and variety. An example 
of the unexpected throws light upon the kind of response to them 
given by the rectory. One day a few years after the epidemic the 
Parson heard his telephone ring long and frantically. It was a 
call from the doctor. "Get ready to go with me up the Peninsula 
at once/' he said; "Greene's boy has broken a leg a pretty bad 
one, the old man says." "I'm ready any time," was the reply, 
though James was sorely puzzled to know how he could be of 
?ase in the case of a fracture of any kind. Once at the farm the 
wo men learned the particulars of the accident. 

Greene's boy, a grown man, was leading out a colt for exercise 
when the spirited creature suddenly reared up. The young man's 
first impulse was to try to pull him down. He succeeded better 
than he thought: he put so much power into the effort that he 
dragged the colt over sideways. The beast fell across young 
Greene's legs. Something was heard to snap; the victim was left 
to lie helpless on the ground until the doctor could see him. The 
latter saw at once what had happened: the man's kneecap had 
been split clean across. It was clearly a case for a hospital That 
meant Owen Sound, of course, fifty or more miles away. For the 
journey none too smooth in those days of unimproved roads 
the injured leg must be held firm in a splint. With manifest 

Piloting on the New Frontier 215 

chagrin the young medico frankly confessed he did not know 
what to do; in his haste he had forgotten to bring any splints 
with him and did not know how to improvise one. Meanwhile 
the patient lay on the bare ground suffering agonies. "But 
surely/' interposed Parson James, "y u can at ^ east te ll us w ^ at a 
knee splint is like." Following the doctor's brief description the 
Parson called for a couple of light boards, a saw, a hammer and 
some nails. In a few minutes the splint was made and set on the 
leg. Later, the doctor reported the hospital surgeon's comment: 
"It was the best knee splint I have ever seen." 

The day came when, naturally enough, the parishioners of the 
Cape Chin region keenly felt the need of a church building in 
which to worship. Though free to go on using McCallum's school- 
house as long as they wished, they craved for their services an 
atmosphere that a plain, secular building of that order could not 
offer. For many months the subject was a common topic of con- 
versation in aU the households concerned; but, as usual in the 
first stages of such matters, no orderly attempts were being made 
to bring the talk to a focus. To effect such a result, a definite plan, 
however crude at first, was needed. Once again the pastor's duty 
stood out clear as a signpost on a highway. 

Even a shepherd of souls has to have near him some kindred 
spirit with whom he can talk freely and fully about his problems 
and his visions of the future. Straight to such an assured source 
of strength and counsel went Parson James to a gifted architect 
who was at the same time a devoted churchman and a truly 
philanthropic spirit. "Cape Chin wants a church, and of course 
one built of stone, the stone of its own hills and valleys. Its plan 
and lines must be in keeping with the best Anglican tradition. 
There's no excuse for making a house of God in the wilderness 
as uncouth as the wilderness itself. Now won't you sketch me a 
plan of just such a church to crown the crest of a hill near Cape 
Chin? And don't forget lancet windows!" 

So Architect Jamesthere may be something more in names 
than we suspect drafted a plan for Parson James. Together the 
two pored over it, modified it in a thousand and one ways, and 
at last put down boldly in cold figures what they thought the cost 
would be. "Even in those days,' the good pastor wrote me years 
afterwards, "the figures were terrifying to a country parson. The 
two of us decided we would try to close our eyes to them. So I 

218 The Bruce Beckons 

went to the people and said: "Here's a plan for a new church and 
here's what it will cost to carry It out in money and in labour. 
What will you do?' 

"The responses were prompt and as various in form as they were 
noble. The owner of the chosen site said at once he would give 
that. Others who had but little money promised to give of that 
little gladly and sacrificially. All these and still others pledged 
themselves to gifts of labour of hand and horsepower. The out- 
come of the appeal surpassed our most sanguine hopes." 

The order of the steps to be taken in the progress from bare 
site to roof was plain. The first was to get together a supply of 
stone. In a certain sense that was an easy job, for the whole region 
is in itself a vast quarry of dolomite limestone. Through untold 
centuries the glaciers and the winters that came after them had 
torn out from their strata great rectangular chunks of this stone 
and strewed them all about. Some of these weighed as much as 
two tons each; those not exceeding this weight served the builders' 
purpose well. The task, no hard one for a couple of teams with 
logging chains, was to drag a suitable block upside down to a 
spot where it could be easily worked upside down, since the 
underside, having never been exposed to the hardening effect of 
the air, is the soft side. (To think of stone having a soft side!) 
About once a month the Parson would "line up" four men and 
two teams to draw blocks to suitable places. One month it would 
be, say, the Hayes and the Morrows, the next month the McLays 
and the McDonalds, and so on down the roll of willing hands, 
the McArthurs, Wests, Rouses, and still others. Small groups of 
men with hammers broke the blocks into pieces of the size 
required for the walls. Not the least energetic among the stone- 
breakers was Parson James himself who with good effect regularly 
swung a nine-pound hammer, or, if a soft side proved to be less 
soft than it should be, a twelve-pounder borrowed from a fellow- 
workman. And when the building stones were ready it was the 
Parson who in a little trailer towed behind his old Ford coupe 
conveyed them to the place where they were to become church 
walls. Two professional masons, assisted by a mortar-mixer, then 
laid them in their courses. In the main, the building of this church 
in the wildwood was an achievement of amateurs. 

"In the first year (1925) we got a good start; in the second year 
we laid the corner stone, and in the third year we put the roof on. 
As for the timber for joists and rafters," we read in the parson's 

Piloting on the New Frontier 217 

record of progress, "some of it was taken out of the forest near 
the church. Yes, it was just as simple as that." 

But was it "just as simple as that"? And are we ungracious in 
questioning a Sky Pilot's word? The good man's modesty has 
glozed over the vital fact that in his own person Parson James 
was a whole construction staff. He was a feller of trees, a hewer, 
and a sawyera full-fledged lumberman as well as quarryman, 
stone-mason, and superintendent of works. He was also owner 
and operator of the sawmill that converted into beams and boards 
the trees of the adjacent forest. The mill was nothing else than 
his own Model T Ford coup6 which he had commandeered to 
serve him in a novel form of pastoral duty. 

A level, low-lying tract near the site of the church was chosen 
as the source of the wood to go into the edifice; in it stood sound 
trees of the kinds needed. Into a little clearing of solid ground 
beside this tract the Model T was backed. Its front wheels were 
firmly blocked before and behind. The rear wheels were jacked 
up well clear of the ground. The power plant was now ready. The 
sawing unit was deftly improvised by the "boss" and one of his 
laymen. From sundry junk piles was salvaged the gear for trans- 
mitting the power of 'the Model T to the saw: an inch and a 
half steel shaft and three pulley-wheels. Two of these were fitted 
to the shaft so that each made contact with a jacked-up wheel of 
the car; on the third, fastened to the projecting end of the shaft, 
ran the belt that rotated the saw. The bearings on which all 
moving parts turned were as makeshift as any other part of the 
whole ingenious contraption. 

And what a "plant" it was! It turned out material as fine as the 
product of a trade factory. With its rear end lifted jauntily aloft 
it reminded one of an untethered colt joyfully disporting itself 
in a woodland clearing. In the sound of its saw, whether ripping or 
cutting across the grain of the wood, there was not the faintest 
hint of a whine; rather, the buzz seemed to be the voice of a 
creature conscious of making a joyful noise unto the Lord. Once 
again was the Parson guilty of understatement when he wrote: 
"We "butchered up* quite a lot of timber of various sizes to fit 
different parts of the building"; with my own eyes I have again 
and again seen in the charming little church the fine product 
turned out by the improvised mill and the master sawyer who 
ran it. 

During this period the enthusiasm of the pastor and his 


The Bruce Beckons 

St. Margaret's Church at Cape Chin 

parishioners rose at the same rate as the walls. In time it reached 
a pitch that infected beneficently the whole community, even the 
members of other faiths. Passing strangers who saw the charming 
stone edifice taking form in lie rough hilly woodland up the 
Peninsula were touched by the courage of the effort and gladly 
gave their bits. But the highlight of aid from without came from 
an unexpected quarter and had results that even the most romantic 
mind could not have conceived beforehand. A small company of 
anglers from a distant city who were fishing for lake trout off 
the Head heard Parson James tell the story of the parish's enter- 
prise at Cape Chin. Caught by his zeal they volunteered small 
contributions to the cause. Out of this simple, matter-of-fact cir- 
cumstance sprang up a legend, a legend of die kind which endless 
repititions of the real truth can never suppress; it seems now to 
have become a part of the slowly growing folklore of the 

Gossip had it that these contributions toward the erection of a 
house of God were really the proceeds of a poker game. Absurd, 
of course, for the proceeds of a poker game played to its limit 
represent the acquired gains of one person only the winner. 
But the donation that gave rise to the legend was a group affair: 
to that I can take my oath. However, whether the tale was true 
or not, there was in it an incongruity that tickled everybody's 
sense of humour. In time the tale reached the anglers' home town. 

Piloting on the New Frontier 219 

The laughter it created was extraordinarily fruitful. The head of 
a large glass company offered to glaze all the windows of the 
new church free of cost. A wealthy widow promised to provide the 
seating. And thus it was that, when in 1928 St. Margaret's Church 
at Cape Chin was dedicated by the Bishop of the Diocese of 
Huron, 'the congregation of parishioners and friends who came 
together for the service sat in comfortable pews of solid oak and 
saw the sunlight softly filtered through the cathedral glass of the 
lovely lancet windows. 

Such is the humility of the man whom many in The Bruce, 
in deep affection and admiration, still speak of as "Daddy" James, 
that he would attribute the success of his ministry in the Penin- 
sula to inspiration and strength vouchsafed him from above. And 
who would have it otherwise? Yet to those of us who have had 
the privilege of observing many phases of that ministry, the part 
of the human agent in this fruitful mission of the new frontier 
is manifest. If we seek a reason for its fruitfulness we can quickly 
find it. Indeed, it has already been put into print for us. One of 
the world's greatest missionary leaders of modern times, Dr. 
Albert Schweitzer, whose mission lies on "the edge of the primeval 
wilderness," not long ago wrote these words: "But it is just by 
means of the Christian sympathy and gentleness that he [the 
missionary of the frontier] shows in all this everyday business that 
he exercises his greatest influence; whatever level of spirituality 
the community reaches is due to nothing so much as to the suc- 
cess of its Head in this matter ok Preaching without Words!' 1 

1. On the Edge of the Primeval Forest (London: Adam and Charles Black 
Limited; Toronto: The Macmiiian Company o Canada Limited, 1948), p. 109. 
Canon James died on September 28, 1961. 

Chapter 20 


A weed-grown wound between time-blighted trees, 
A crumbling chimney that now stands alone, 

Show where a home that faced the summer breeze 
Has turned a cenotaph of scattered stone. 

Where once a proud house stood is emptiness, 

The roofless cellar now a cave of gloom, 
Jet round its rim brave hollyhocks still press 

And on the rubble valiant lilacs bloom. 

ABTHUR STRINGER, "The Abandoned Farm." 1 

THE Bruce has many notable traits, but one stands out 
above all others: her spectacular ways of proving the 
indestructibility of life, its refusal to be smothered out by 
any conditions, however adverse. On every hand she parades 
her proofs of its tenacity. Let every tree be laid low on any 
given tract of the Peninsula until nothing but bare ground and 
naked rock is to be seen: yet, after no more than two summers, 
the unpromising surface is green with the tender foliage of 
seedling aspens, pin cherries, and birches, under whose shade 
will be nursed the young of a forest of pines and firs yet to be. 
Or let fire sweep away all signs of plant life, even consuming 
the last grain of humus on the -underlying limestone pavement: 
yet, in the very next season of growth, you will see dense 
bunches of grass forcing their way upward through countless 
crevices and waving their plumes aloft. Or, again, let the face 
of the cliff that towers off Lion's Head crash to the Georgian 
Bay shore in a million fragments: yet, in but a short span of 
years, those bits of sterile dolomite will become the verdant 
home of myriads of ferns. 

But despite its manifest proofs of the will to go on living 
The Bruce has not been able to ward off a succession of blows 

1. A few months before Ins death Mr. Stringer, on his own initiative, sent me 
a typewritten copy of this poem and accorded permission to quote from it in 
this chapter. 


Lilacs and Log Cabins 221 

that have seared her face with the lines of an old age that has 
come before its time, for among the frontier settlements of 
Ontario The Bruce is a mere child. Some disfigurements, of course, 
will come to the face even of a wholly unpeopled land through 
what the law terms "acts of God" the ravages of lightning, fire, 
flood, and wind. But the most unsightly scars that mar the features 
of The Bruce are not such as 'these: rather, they are the evidences 
of man's effort to wrest a living from her wealth of wood and her 
deceptive soils. 

Of these the most appalling are the remains of human habita- 
tions that one comes across here and there in the Peninsula. The 
visitor's eye can hardly avoid them since they hug close to the 
highways of today, the old trails of a pioneer yesterday made 
broader and smoother even if not always straighter. These re- 
mains are in all stages of decayfrom erect, staring skeletons of 
abodes to the scattered stones of crumbled chimneys and founda- 
tions that lie round about like disjointed bones. 

But here is matter for wonder! Nearly all of these relics are 
marked as though they were once scenes of historic events or of 
rare natural beauty. And in each case the marker is not an inert 
thing like a monument of wood or of stone, but something 
patently infused with life, something which stands for the triumph 
of life over powers that would insidiously destroy a stately, 
vigorous clump of lilacs. If you go about The Bruce seeking the 
spots where men and women and children once had homes, look 
first of all for tall, flourishing thickets of lilacs, and not far off you 
will find the sorry vestiges of what you seek. 

These decayed homesteads must have a story to tell. Sad to 
say, only a few of them can tell of early and continuous success. 
By that we mean a success which, thanks to sheer good luck as 
much as to skill and grit, lasted long enough to be counted as a 
spell of comfortable prosperity. As a rule, old Bruce homesteads 
of this class may be known at a glance, for they are labelled. And 
the labels are, most fittingly, trim modern abodes that flaunt their 
fancy gables above the squat shelters of the days of pioneer toil 
and hardship. But why have these ugly relics been left to harrow 
the spirit of every passer-by? Through indolence, perhaps; or 
because of utter indifference to the looks of things? Or can it be 
by design, so that the glaring contrast may proclaim to all and 
sundry how far along in the world the occupants of the proud 
new houses have forged their way? 

222 The Bruce Beckons 

But the mere presence of the new hard by the old is not 
necessarily a mark of solid achievement; I can myself point to 
one dismal instance in which it is an obvious monument to 
failure. In 'this case both old and new have been abandoned to 
crumble at leisure into shameful ruin, and the clearing in which 
they stand has been recaptured, foot by foot, by the relentless 
encroachments of the forest. For me this distressing sight has an 
historical significance. Not more than three decades ago I saw 
the "new" home of this pair, stylish with its two storeys and its 
then up-to-date coat of golden shingles, ostentatiously reared in 
front of the flat-roofed log shanty that preceded it. It was the 
owner's pride and the township's envy, But today mansion and 
shanty are homes no longer except to the small rodents of field 
and wood and to the great horned owl. 

The first to invade the fastnesses of The Bruce were men who 
sought to cut its trees into lumber. Many of these came as "hands" 
in logging-gangs who accepted as a matter of course the rough 
though hearty, barrack-like existence provided by their "boss/' 
But there were some who could not be content with anything 
short of family life, though lived under the crudest of roofs. 
Besides those who came in organized groups as hired men on a 
pay-roll there were a number of "lone wolves": unable to team up 
with others they must have a field of labour all their own where 
each in his own person could be both "boss" and workman. At 
great pains they acquired for themselves small family-sized limits, 
so to speak, situated in odd corners among the large limits worked 
by gangs. 

Without delay all who were domestically inclined proceeded 
to set up their cabins on the ragged edge of the forest. At first 
these were placed near the scenes of the men's daily labours. But 
little by little this advantage waned. The harder men worked with 
axe and saw and team the more swiftly did the wall of the forest 
retreat. After a few seasons of cutting it was so far from the 
workers' bed and board that the daily trudge outward to work and 
homeward at dusk was too hard to endure. Any one of these 
loggers could truthfully have said with Goldsmith's traveller: "By 
every remove I only drag a greater length of chain." 

At length the day came when the last tree of the limit had 
been felled and the last log drawn to the water. There was no 
longer need for axeman, sawyer, or teamster. No tenants were 
left for the crude homes straggling along the fringe of the wilder- 

Lilacs and Log Cabins 223 

ness. These lonely, simple structures stand out against a dreary 
background of stumps, deformed trees, slash, and sky, reminding 
one of the battered hulks of ships that lie stranded along 'the 
coastal shoals and craggy ledges of near-by Lake Huron. Come 
close to any one of them and listen. What you hear is the wind 
working its will upon the ghost of a house, hooting down the 
chimney as in derision and with weird fingers clawing at the 
windows and trying the latches of the doors. 

But timber was not the only lodestone that drew men into 
these rugged northern parts. For many it was the prospect of 
possessing land. To them the forest was a foe since it kept from 
them the thing they coveted an expanse of tillable acres to be 
had for little more than nothing, acres that a man could call his 
own and not a landlord's. The fierceness of the hunger to become 
independent proprietors warped the judgment. Not many of these 
seekers of cheap land brought with them any experience with soils 
and all seemed to nurse the naive belief that any patch of earth, 
if merely scratched, somehow yields a living. All one need do, it 
appeared, was to barn-storm the wilderness boldly enough. Im- 
petuously these men staked out their farmsteads on the first un- 
claimed tracts they chanced upon. In the building of their cabins 
even greater leeway was left to luck. Few signs survive that these 
domestic sites were really selected. In many cases even the as- 
surance of an available water supply was neglected. 

Scarcely any of these callow adventurers could do more than 
guess what manner of soil would be brought to light when the 
trees came down whether sterile rock and gravel or workable 
loam. They plunged doggedly ahead, raising shelters for them- 
selves, and, if they were not too lazy, unfeeling, or pressed for 
time, for their animals also. Whatever they put together to serve 
as barn or stable was rough and rude beyond words. Since no 
effort was made to pack the spaces between the rough logs the 
oxen and cows were exposed to almost the full blasts of winter's 
winds. A roof of bark kept the snow from falling directly upon 
them, but what benefit was that when driving through the gaping 
walls it would pile up all about them? But few indeed were the 
cattle that in the first stages of a mid-forest farmstead had even 
a vestige of shelter. Until their owners had time to mow and 
stack marsh grasses they lived their winters in the bush browsing 
like deer on succulent shrubs or on the tender twigs and leaf- 
buds of trees cut down to feed them. 

224 The Beckons 

After a few feverish weeks of strenuous toil there would rise in 
each little clearing some form of shelter for its human occupants. 
Thankfully and fondly they dignified their new quarters with the 
name of home, and, as if to signalize their faith in the happy 
family life that lay ahead, they planted a lilac bush at their front 
door. Unwittingly they were treading the path of ancient Euro- 
pean custom, a custom sprung from a primitive folk-legend which 
held the lilac to be the guardian of 'the household. Many a flower- 
loving emigrant housewife carefully tucked away lilac cuttings 
among the household effects put aboard ship and lovingly bore 
them westward to the new home overseas. Today follow the 
lilac thickets of the countryside and you will find yourself tread- 
ing the trail of our pioneers. 

The mind of man is a ragbag of contradictions. All too often 
the assurance of a roof over his head created in the tenderfoot 
proprietor a spirit of codksureness not warranted by the facts of 
daily experience. As the forest was pressed back rod by rod the 
discoveries made should have been disturbing. Here where earth 
of some kind was to be expected the spade struck solid limestone. 
Yonder where soil of no mean depth was actually found it 
turned out to be boggy and sour. A feeling of disquiet stole slowly 
over once bold hearts. This at length gave way to alarm and their 
early confidence began to slip away. The last stage of this sorry 
course of life could not be far off. Soon a melancholy inertia 
numbed the spirit of the whole household and thenceforth every 
action, in the field and indoors alike, became merely the listless 
ritual of daily life. 

And then the end! The heartbreak of proven failure and the 
prospect of unrelieved poverty left but one path open for the man 
who had once exulted in the promise of becoming the free master 
of his own domain. Denied food for the table of his household and 
fodder for the mangers of his beasts, he cursed his acres and all 
upon them, nailed up his lowly manor as though it were a coffin, 
and slunk away overnight into the vast blank of "elsewhere." But 
there was one living thing he leftthe undying lilac by the door. 

Such are the abandoned homes of The Bruce. Their desolate 
remains haunt the mind of the visitor because of the shocking 
contrast between them and the tidy domiciles of pioneers who did 
win and hold a genuine success. Deserted by woodsmen and by 
husbandmen these forlorn relics of defeat still tell their tale. Of 
any one of them that remain erect Adjutor Rivard could have 

Lilacs and Log Cabins 225 

written as lie wrote in his charming Chez Nous of an ancient 
haunted house a maison condamneeof his own Quebec: 

So there it was at the edge of the road, like a tomb. A few hastily nailed 
boards barred the door and the windows of the sad abode. Never even a 
wisp of smoke from its chimney of stone; never a ray of sunshine crossing 
its threshold; never a glimmer of light in Its closed eyes. Blind and deaf 
the deserted habitation stood there indifferent to the spacious motley pattern 
of the tilled fields as to the ceaseless rustling of the meadows. Cold and 
mute, nothing can rouse it from its torpor and no human voice awaken its 
echoes. No human voice, . . . but, of nights, has not one heard borne on 
the wind from the dead house long cries like the wailing of one who 
laments? 1 

With like finality spoke Edwin Arlington Robinson of the house 
on the New England hill: 

There is ruin and decay 

In the House on the Hill: 
They are all gone away, 

There is nothing more to say. 2 

But there is something more to say so many things that we 
cannot say them all. And one of them must be said at once. The 
picture we have drawn is sombre, indeed it seems almost too 
sombre to be true. Yet it is true so far as a single sketch may 
suggest the collective ill fortune of a whole class of individuals. 
And this ill luck was that of men who pioneered, not in some 
far-off ancient time nor in some distant land, but within the life- 
time of many of us, near our doors and under our very eyes. We 
have often smugly said: "Never will the blunders and wasteful- 
ness of the early colonists occur again." But they have occurred 
again and we have seen them. And yet again will they occur 
until we learn to translate into constructive social action the facts 
of a history of which we have ourselves been witnesses. 

Still another thing must be said: the sketch we have presented 
is only a part of a picture; there remains the other part the 
happier aspects of the peopling of The Bruce. It is a smaller part, 
so small indeed that one can easily overlook it. Yet it is a most 
welcome high light in a scene which, so far as human comfort and 
the satisfaction of human aspirations are concerned, is for the 
most part an expanse of unrelieved shadow. It is welcome because 
it is true, just as true as the tale of mistakes and misf ortune told 

1. By permission of the publishers, McClelland and Stewart, Limited, Toronto. 

2. From "The House on the Hill/* by permission of Charles Scribners Sons. 

226 The Bruce Beckons 

by the dumb faces o the abandoned houses, for a goodly number 
of those who trekked into the Peninsula to win livings from its 
trees, soils, and great surrounding waters reaped at least a 
measure of the reward they sought. 

Here is a bright, cheerful spot in the picture. Henry Whicher 
took up land at Colpoy's Bay in Albemarle in 1867. On December 
3, 1870 he jotted down in his diary: "One of the best farms in 
Upper Canada, and that is saying a great deal, may be made of 
this lot [of 153 acres], either for the raising of grain or for stock 
and dairying. I value the lot now at $10. per acre, paid $3. for it 
2& years ago." Eighty years have proved the soundness of his 
hopes and judgment: he and his tribe flourished here and of his 
children's children some still reside in the region. Nor let this be 
overlooked: the land in this area is yet good. Truly here is a 
family who lived long enough to behold in the recurrent leafing 
and flowering of the lilacs by the door no longer a symbol of 
faith in things to be but a banner of pride in things achieved. 



AT Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island, on August 9, 1836, 
the title to the Peninsula (plus an additional tract im- 
mediately south of it) was surrendered to the Crown by 
the Ojibway Indians. The consideration involved was the Govern- 
ment's pledge to pay the tribes "twelve hundred pounds per 
annum, as long as grass grows and water runs." Provision to set 
aside areas for the Indians of the Peninsula was made in a "Royal 
Deed of Declaration" on June 29, 1847, which solemnly reaffirmed 
the right of the Ojibways to continue to possess and enjoy the 
Peninsula, "or the proceeds of the sale thereof for the benefit of 
the said Ojibway Indians and their posterity." 

Herein lurked a germ of future trouble: the subtle suggestion 
that the Indians' ownership might not be as enduring as the 
Royal Deed declared. No less ominous was a certain major 
aspect of administration: the government bureau that acted in 
such transactions was the Department of Indian Affairs instead 
of the Department of Crown Lands. Thus for some time there 
existed side by side two separate bureaus for the administration 
of public lands. Added to this unsatisfactory arrangement was 
an even worse one: the Department of Indian Affairs was a 
branch of the British War Office and the Governor-General's 
secretary was ex-officio Superintendent-General. Thus this de- 
partment was not responsible to the Government of Canada or 
to the Indians. This situation lasted until 1868. 

Fulfilment of the Royal Deed's hidden omen did not lag long. 
The increasing demands for new lands for settlement turned 

*The material in this appendix was first presented in summary form to 
Section II of the Royal Society of Canada in Quebec in 1952. It was printed as an 
article in the Owen Sound Sun-Times, June 14, 1952, in Inland Seas, Spring 1955, 
pp. 3-9, and Summer 1955, pp. 103-110, and as no. 29 of Western Ontario 
History Nuggets, 1961. I had hoped to include the information it gives in the 
chapter, "And the Trees Trooped Out/* in The Bruce Beckons, but the material 
on which it is based, and for which I am indebted to the Public Archives of 
Canada, was not available in time. 


228 The Bruce Beckons 

covetous eyes toward the Peninsula. In 1854 the Indian chiefs 
were invited to a parley to discuss the possibility of the surrender 
of the tract to the Crown. On October 13 of that year a treaty 
was signed to effect the transfer. The Indians consented to yield 
the entire peninsula except certain reserved areas, on the under- 
standing "that the interest of the principal sum arising out of the 
sale of the lands be regularly paid to the Indians or to their 
children in posterity, so long as there were Indians left to repre- 
sent the tribe, without diminution, at half-yearly intervals." 

In April, 1855, Lord Bury, Superintendent-General at the time, 
authorized the survey of the townships of Keppel and Amabel 
and soon afterward advertised that the tract would be put up for 
public auction on October 17 of the same year; unforeseen delays 
put off the event until September 2 of 1856. On paper the result 
was satisfactory; of the 144,000 acres offered only about one- 
quarter failed to fetch bids. The average upset price for farm 
lots was 10s. 3d. an acre whereas the average rate paid at the 
sale was 18s. 6d. The total sum realized, including cash down and 
pledges on future instalments, was 119,332. In the light of 
present knowledge of the nature of the land purchased, the 
figures reported are monstrously absurd. In a brief word on the 
times O. D. Skelton (Railway Builders, pp, 84-5) tells us what 
had happened. "A speculative fever ran through the whole com- 
munity . . . and land prices soared to heights undreamed of. The 
pace quickened till exhaustion, contagious American panics, poor 
harvests, and the Crimean War . . . brought collapse in 1857." The 
war ended on March 30, 1856, only five months before the auction 
at Owen Sound. The country was nearing the end of its mad 
descent to financial disaster. 

But stern facts soon brought speculator and settler alike back 
to their senses. Many of both groups, shocked by the grim pro- 
spect into sobriety, summarily forfeited their cash payments 
and threw up their contracts. The courageous few who stayed by 
their bargains forthwith began to flood the Department with 
appeals for relief. They were, they pleaded, only the innocent 
victims of a universal hysteria. Their plea was not unheeded; 
some easement in the conditions of purchase was granted. But 
this did little more than add to the grievances of the settlers, 
who held that the adjustment favoured the speculators unjustly. 
This bitter difference continued unabated for many years. 

The painful revelation that followed hard upon the fantastic 
sale of the peninsular lands and the grave depression of 1857 

Appendix 229 

disclosed also a number of fundamentally unsound conditions. 
The most illogical of these was that the ultimate authority over 
the Indian's interests lay in the distant British War Office. This 
great drawback was only diminished, not removed, when in 
1868 an act of the Parliament of Canada created the Department 
of Secretary of State and appointed the holder of that portfolio 
Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; the office to administer 
the Indian lands was set up in Toronto rather than in or near 
the territories concerned. Not until 1878 was an office established 
in Wiarton and an agent posted to it. But the effectiveness 
of this arrangement was gravely impaired by a weakness which 
research brought to light only recently: copies of the licences 
issued by the agents on the spot were not sent to Ottawa, it seems, 
except when requested by the Indian Department. The result is 
that few copies of the licences are on record today. Strangely 
enough, the Indian Department has none dated before 1900; 
the Archives has only about fifteen for the Bruce Peninsula, and 
all are within the period from 1873 to 1876. These relate to 
the townships of Amabel, Albemarle, Eastnor, and St. Edmunds, 
and also to Wiarton and Cape Croker. There is only one con- 
clusion to be drawn: the controlling authority, the Department, 
made very few requests for copies of licences issued locally. The 
agents, all honourable men, did faithfully what they were ex- 
pected to do. It was the system that was wrong; its weaknesses 
are too obvious to need singling out. Our story as it unfolds 
affords ample illustrations. 

There is no more fruitful source of information, though far 
from complete, than the files of the licences themselves. This is 
a group or books kept by the Indian Department which contain 
references to timber licences and to revenue from timber. These 
volumes the Department has entrusted to the custody of the 
Public Archives. They are: (a) Timber Ledger, 1863-1864; (b) 
Timber License Ledger, 1871-1874; (c) Timber License Book, 

Big timber operators invaded the Peninsula much earlier than 
all but the oldest of the old-timers now suspect. The paucity of 
extant records forbids one ever to expect to see the full tally 
of the names and numbers of these aggressive outsiders. In the 
minds of the earliest settlers two names (which, as we shall show, 
were really one name) stand out above all others. These are 
Cook and Brothers, and the corporation to which they assigned 

230 The Bruce Beckons 

their licences. When at long last the harassed land-owners got 
the ear of Sir John Macdonald ft was these two companies that 
were charged as the chief cause of the pitiable condition for 
which relief was sought. 

According to an item in an Indian Department timber ledger 
of 1864 now in the Public Archives at Ottawa (the only record 
still existing of timber licences issued for the Peninsula during 
the sixties), Messrs. Cook Brothers of Barrie began cutting in 
Keppel Township in 1863. At the start the firm carried on its 
operations simultaneously in widely separated parts of the town- 
ship, on the east side not far inland from the shore of Owen 
Sound, and in the southwestern corner near the Sauble River. 
They took a small amount of ash, large quantities of oak (pre- 
sumably red), many elm (presumably of the species called rock 
or cork which is still abundant in the region bordering on 
Amabel), and an enormous proportion of pine. The dues the 
Cooks paid for the oak and the pine seem to indicate that the 
greater part of these two species cut in Keppel was made into 
square timber for export. That at least some of this reached 
Quebec one may infer from a ledger item of this same time that 
records a draft drawn on Cook Brothers, Quebec. 

Not long before his death in 1952, an Owen Sound citizen, 
William Gilchrist, gave me his recollections of these operations. 
In 1865, when he was a boy of five, his parents took him with 
them to reside in Keppel. The new home was near Lake Charles 
in the northern part of the township. During the second half 
of the sixties young Gilchrist saw many of the Cook gangs at 
work on several tracts of the forest. They took out many prime 
examples of rock elm to be made into ship masts, and vast 
quantities of red and white pine. The elm and the pine, the 
latter in great squared sticks which were felled in the south- 
western corner of the township, were conveyed over the snow 
to the Sauble River and then in the high water of spring floated 
down to Lake Huron. The squared pines were assembled at 
Oliphant and from there towed in bag-booms to Tobermory 
where they were loaded on schooners and taken by way of the 
Welland Canal to Toronto or to Garden Island near Kingston. 
At either place square timbers were made into great rafts which 
were taken down the St. Lawrence to Quebec. The hazard of 
taking immense rafts of very valuable timber down the rapids 
of the St. Lawrence was always great; but greater still by far 
was the hazard involved in traversing nearly two hundred miles 

Appendix 231 

of open Lake Ontario between Toronto and the head of the 
River. Enlightened by long experience the Calvin Company 
of Garden Island adopted the policy of avoiding the long and 
dangerous haul on the lake. But others, including the Cooks, 
closed their eyes to the risks, and, sometimes, to their sorrow, 
made up their rafts at Toronto. 

Once again an eye-witness gives precision to our story, Charles 
Williams, a resident of Lion's Head since 1877, lived as a boy in 
Toronto, at the corner of Front and Portland streets. Opposite 
his father's home and tavern were the docks of the old Northern 
Railway where the Cooks and other operators constructed their 
huge rafts of square timbers. Not far away was the residence of 
Hiram Henry Cook, the eldest of the Cook brothers. The removal 
of the Williams family to Lion's Head gave the lad Charles an 
opportunity to witness what was to him a new phase of the 
Cooks' business their activities in the primitive forest and the 
removal of its trees from the Peninsula. From what he over- 
heard of the heated conversation of his elders and from what he 
himself saw from time to time he soon became aware of the 
grievous plight of the settlers, of their dogged but vain fight 
and of their bitter hatred of the Cooks who were denuding 
potential settlers' lots of their most desirable wealth, their pines. 
Now it so happened that 1877 was the beginning of a crucial 
era in the affairs of the Cooks and of the settlers in the Peninsula. 
In reviewing the period one should bear in mind a certain fact 
which may have been a relevant factor in the situation Hiram 
Cook was a member of Parliament from 1872 to 1878. During 
these years he represented the North Riding of Simcoe; later, 
from 1882 to 1891, he sat for the East Riding of the same county. 

How long after 1863 Cook and Brothers carried on in Keppel 
no record is left to tell. In 1870 Lindsay and St. Edmunds, the 
two northern townships of the Peninsula, were opened for settle- 
ment and lumbering. Here was a great opportunity for a company 
used to working on a large scale. Contrary to the tradition per- 
sisting in the Peninsula to this day, the primeval forest of the 
upper townships abounded in pines of a size and quality suitable 
for making into the square timber keenly sought by the British 
lumber trade. If the present tradition were true the Cooks would 
never have given a moment's thought to the region. As for pro- 
spective settlers in this area, they in their eargerness to become 
their own landlords did not always pause to calculate what a 
paralysing handicap the possible loss of their pine would prove 

232 The Bruce Beckons 

to be when they actually began clearing and occupying their 
farm lots. The system was essentially unjust though it was the 
fruit of good intentions: by sale of the former Indian lands the 
Government aimed to augment as rapidly as possibly the capital 
fund held in trust for the Indians. 

Through an analysis of the Cook licences made in May of 
1882 for Sir John A. Macdonald by the then Deputy Superinten- 
dent-General of Indian Affairs, A. Vankoughnet, we now know the 
history of the Cooks' association with Lindsay and St, Edmunds. 
On February 4, 1870, Cook and Brothers applied to the Superin- 
tendent of Indian Lands in Toronto for a licence to cut timber on 
71 square miles of these townships. The application was relayed 
to Ottawa; the Honourable Joseph Howe, the Superintendent- 
General at the time, ruled that the area requested was excessive 
and that the applicant must be content with 50 square miles. 
This, one cannot refrain from observing, was one-tenth of the 
area of the whole Peninsula. The Cooks- accepted the decision 
and the licence was issued in 1871. The licensees, shrewd though 
they were, failed to read the wording of the licence carefully; 
later, this oversight turned out to be fatal. As Vankoughnet 
pointed out to the Prime Minister, the licence permitted its 
holder to cut on the limits specified square timber and sawlogs 
of all descriptions of timber that is, of all species of trees and not 
specifically pine. Actually, however, for years the Cooks sought 
and cut nothing but pine. 

In May, 1871, a separate licence was granted to Simon S. Cook 
to separate limits of 47 square miles in the same two townships 
but it restricted him to pine sawlogs alone*, not long afterward 
the permit was enlarged to include squared pine timbers. In 
September, 1875, and October, 1874, respectively, the Cook 
Brothers and the Simon S. Cook licences were renewed. 

When they took over their new ample limits the Cook Brothers 
began operating on the grand scale long known on the Ottawa 
and the Trent. At the southeast corner of Shouldice Lake, in 
Lindsay, they built a huge "camboose" camp; its main building 
housed a full gang of 82 men. Charles Williams says that it was 
a typical "camboose" shanty; this means that it was rectangular 
in plan, about 46 feet long and 38 wide. In the centre of its roof, 
which was made of log "scoops," was a square opening between 
8 and 10 feet broad. Directly below this was an earth-floored 
fireplace on which fires of great logs served for heating the 
spacious single room and for cooking the loggers' meals. Tiers 


of double bunks lined three walls of the room. This building, 
with its accessory cabins and sheds, was designated Cook Bros. 
Camp No. 1. For all we know now it may have been the only 
camp of its type ever set up in the Peninsula. 

Up to 1877 a settler's terms of purchase, as summarized later by 
an Acting Deputy Minister, were, on paper, simple and easy. 
One-fifth of the purchasing price was to be paid at the time of the 
sale and the remainder liquidated in four equal yearly instalments 
with interest at the rate of 6 per cent. The settler was required 
to meet two other conditions: (a) continuous occupation and 
residence for three years and the clearing and fencing of five 
acres per 100 of the quantity purchased; (b) no exportation or 
sale of timber until conditions of occupation and sale had been 
fully complied with, except under licence. 

But the lot of the settler was not simple and easy; it was 
atrociously hard. His soil was either too scant or too patchy to 
assure him enough food for his table, let alone enough dollars 
to pay the annual instalments on his purchase. The trees growing 
on his acres were his whole substance his food, his shelter, his 
oxen, his horses, even the promise of his ultimate title to his 
domain, as one of his fervent defenders passionately told the 
House of Commons. But the owner of the trees was not really 
their master; he was not free to do with them as he wished. Before 
completing the purchase of his land he could not lawfully fell 
any of his trees for gainful purposes unless he had paid for a 
licence to do so, and then, on top of that, had remitted heavy 
dues to the Indian Department for the timber he had removed. 
The net profit on his outlay of money, enterprise, and labour was 
generally zero and often less. Conditions were such as to frighten 
away from certain parts many a person who thought seriously of 
taking up land in the Peninsula. For instance, after 1870 on many 
square miles of Lindsay and St. Edmunds big timber operators 
had first claim upon the pines within their limits. Most of the 
red and white pines cut here were made into square "sticks" for 
export to Britain. What prospective settler in his right mind was 
willing to take up a farm lot in a forest stripped of its most 
valuable form of natural wealth? Yet the day was to come when 
the purchaser of a lot which he intended to clear for cultivation 
suffered the extreme anguish of having to stand by utterly helpless 
while before his eyes his property was despoiled by others of 
what he needed most in setting up a homestead on the frontier. 

234 The Bruce Beckons 

But the colonists would not let their misery numb them into 
silence. Their unceasing protests fairly deafened the Indian 
Department at Ottawa. In 1869 Alex, Sproat, the member for 
North Bruce, in the plainest of language told the House of 
Commons the story of gross injustice. Made desperate by official 
indifference and inaction, in March of 1872 a company of repre- 
sentative men of the Peninsula met at Wiarton and drew up a 
petition containing many sound, practical suggestions for righting 
the major evils. A deputation took the document to Ottawa. The 
response to it was little more than merely formal a promise to 
consider cases of exceptional hardship; a lukewarm attempt to 
"deflate" in slight measure the "inflated" values of the sale in 
1856. 1 The petitioners' gain, if any at all came from their effort, 
was too minute for them to sense it. 

Late in 1873 Alexander Mackenzie and his Government came 
into power at Ottawa. The new Minister of the Interior, David 
Laird, with the efficiency of a new broom, spent part of the 
summer of 1875 in the Bruce Peninsula. After seeing the lament- 
able conditions of the colonists he announced certain measures 
of relief before the year was out. Provision was made that each 
settler's case would be dealt with on its merits; that interest would 
be remitted up to that year; that the scale of timber dues would 
be lowered. For the first time the long-suffering settlers believed 
they saw the dawn of a brighter day. But their hope was 

During the first few years of cutting pine on their limits in the 
Peninsula the Cooks found themselves stalled here and there .by 
a certain exasperating condition: as soon as a settler purchased 
a farm lot within the Cooks' limits the pine on the property was 
his and the big fellow could not touch it. Hiram Cook declared 
that this provision did not allow large-scale operators time enough 
to make any profit on their investment; their right to cut should 
be extended to five years from the date of the Department's sale 
to the settler. Upon conferring with other lumber operators on 
Indian lands in Manitoulin and Algoma Cook found them sharing 
his opinion but learned that they would be content with an 
extension of three years. This exchange of views took place in 
1877; some of the correspondence still exists. Cook laid the case 

1. In 1897 and 1898 the Government once more resorted to "deflation*' in 
regard to these same lands. Does a country, one wonders, ever really recover 
from the ills of severe inflation? 

Appendix 235 

before die Honourable David Laird, now Superintendent-General 
of Indian Affairs in the Mackenzie Government, who promised 
that he himself would introduce a bill to lengthen the term of 
cutting rights to three years. But Laird deferred action so long 
that the lumbermen became impatient. R. A. Lyon, whose chief 
limits were on Manitoulin Island, wrote a letter to E. B. Borron, 
Government member for Algoma, requesting him to write to the 
Honourable David Mills, who had succeeded Laird as Superin- 
tendent-General, urging him to pass a measure granting relief 
to the distressed lumbermen on former Indian lands. He bolstered 
his plea by pointing out that such a step would ease the Govern- 
ment's concern over the sluggish growth of the capital fund 
held in trust by the Crown for the Indians. The change would 
enable the woodsmen to cut much more timber and thus increase 
the total of dues paid and earmarked for the benefit of the 
Indians. Besides, no real harm would be done to bona fide settlers, 
he claimed, through the proposed reservation of pine on their 
lands. The effort spent upon this correspondence in April and 
May of 1877 produced positive results in November; on the 
twentieth day of that month an Order-in-Council was signed 
providing for the easement requested by Cook and others; it was 
announced by Mr. Mills on December 1. 

All pine trees [reads the Order], being or growing upon any Indian land 
hereafter sold, and at the time of such sale, or previously, included in any 
timber license, shall be considered as reserved from such sale, and such 
land shall be subject to any timber license covering the same, which may be 
in force at the time of such sale, or may be granted within three years from 
the date of such sale; and all pine trees of larger growth than twelve inches 
in diameter at the butt may be cut and removed from such land, under a 
timber license lawfully in force; 

But the purchaser of the land, or those claiming under the purchaser, may 
cut and use such trees as may be necessary for the purpose of building, 
fencing and fuel on the land so purchased; and may also cut and dispose of 
(but the latter only under a settler's license, duly obtained from the local 
Indian Superintendent or Agent) all trees required to be removed in 
actually clearing the land for cultivation, but no pine trees, except for 
necessary building, fencing and fuel, as aforesaid, shall be cut beyond the 
limit of such actual clearing before the issue of the patent for such land; and 
any pine trees so cut and disposed of, except for said necessary building, 
fencing and fuel, as aforesaid, shall be subject to the payment of regular 
dues, and 50 per cent added thereto for trespass fine. 

All trees on the land when the patent issues, to become the property of 
the patentee. 

To the settlers rejoicing in the recent lightening of an old 
anxiety the publication of the Order-in-Council was like a bolt 

236 The Bruce Beckons 

from the blue. It scared prospective settlers away as if the region 
were the scene of a deadly plague. That the Cooks did not fail 
to try to take the toll of the settler the law allowed them is proved 
by a letter that lies before me. On one of its pages Robert 
Lymburaer states that in 1881 his father, Horace Lymburner, 
purchased land near Gillies Lake within the limits held first by 
Cook Brothers and later by their successors. One day he received 
from the latter a bill for 29 pine trees. Lyinbumer, fully aware 
of the new conditions, replied curtly, admitting that he had cut 
exactly 29 pines but solely for the erection of buildings required 
for permanent occupancy of his tract of land. That was the last 
he ever heard of the matter. 

In the months that followed neither settlers nor operators were 
idle. New injustice heaped upon an old unhealed injury goaded 
the settlers into fury. The lumbermen hastened to take stock of 
their future. It soon became plain to them that the production of 
square timber in the Peninsula and elsewhere in eastern Ontario 
was nearing its end. Rereading the text of their licences (or, as it 
turned out, misreading it) the Cooks thought they saw a bright 
spot ahead. The licence conferred the right to cut all descriptions 
of timber. The abundance of white cedar on the Peninsula offered 
a wonderful opportunity to fulfil the demands of the railways for 
ties, posts, and poles. On balance promise prevailed over the 

Through an agent the Cook Brothers took the promise to North 
Britain. There, despite the notorious fiasco of British investments 
in Grand Trunk Railway shares, they quickly found a number of 
Scots ready to put money into a project for developing Canada's 
forest wealth. These set up a company with headquarters, presi- 
dent, and directors in Edinburgh, to take over the 97 square 
miles of the Cooks' limits in The Bruce; the Company was 
adorned with a grandiose title British-Canadian Timber and 
Lumbering Company. Into the new firm the shareholders put 
the sum of 102,000, a good half -million of dollars. Whether or 
not the Cook Brothers had any stock is not known, though it is 
certain that Hiram Henry Cook was appointed manager. The 
assignment to the overseas company of the licences of Cook 
Brothers and of Simon S. Cook was made known to the public 
in November of 1880. 

The prospect of legalized "denudation" of their lands spurred the 
settlers to besiege the Indian Department at Ottawa. No official 

Appendix 237 

in his senses could fail to see that such a demonstration was 
prompted by the fear of some unusual menace. At last the way 
was opened to Sir John Macdonald, who had returned to power 
in 1878. To a strong delegation of representative citizens of the 
Peninsula he granted an interview and out of this interview there 
soon arose a difference between the Company and the Govern- 
ment. The point in dispute was whether the Cooks' original 
licences, now held by the Scottish corporation, permitted the 
cutting of every kind of timber or of pine alone. An analysis made 
by Mr. Vankoughnet, the Deputy Superintendent-General, dis- 
closed a fact which we have already noted in these pages: the 
Cook Brothers' licence though giving the right to cut "every 
description of timber" restricted the holder to sawlogs and the 
making of square timber. But who in that day wanted sawlogs 
and square timber of, say, poplar, balsam, or cedar? Only cedar 
posts, ties, and poles 'were what the British-Canadian Company 
sought for then. On the other hand, the Simon S. Cook licence 
limited cutting to pine exclusively. The reputed shrewdness 
of big business had slipped badly. 

On May 24, 1882, Sir D. L. Macpherson, Minister of the 
Interior, instructed Vankoughnet to inform the British-Canadian 
Company of the Prime Minister's request that their cutting be 
restricted to pine. The notice was accepted under protest but 
with such ill grace that the Department refused to renew the 
licences without further instructions from Sir John. The Company 
went ahead without a licence and cut a quantity of timber other 
than pine. This was seized by the Department. Court action was 
instituted but was halted at the request of Sir John. In December 
of 1882 permission was given the Company to continue opera- 
tions on the old basis until April 30, 1883. A survey of the whole 
region was then made by the Department. The outcome was that 
the land was divided into two categories one suitable for settle- 
ment, the other only for lumbering. The Department declined to 
renew the former Cook licences but offered to grant permission 
to cut timber exclusively on lands of the second category. The 
only inference to be drawn is that the offer was not taken up by 
the Company, since on June 24, 1884, B, B. Miller, Indian Land 
Agent at Wiarton, reported that in his territory no timber licences 
were in effect. 



Adair, 14 

Africa, 61-3 

Agassiz, 24-5 

Ague, Lake, 18, 24 

Alaska Orchid, 142, 144-51 

Albemarle Brook, 14, 16 

Albemarle Twp., 13, 94-5, 100, 104, 

175, 226, 229 
Algoma, 234 f . 
Algoma Steel Corp., 194 
Algonquin, Lake, 8, 24, 183 
Allenford, ix, 6-7 
Amabel Twp., 9, 11, 94-5, 100, 102, 

104, 173, 175, 204-5, 228 ff. 
Andrew Lakes, 161 
Annie E. Foster, 49-51 
Anticosti, 145, 148 
Anville, d', 3, 33 
Arabia, 85 
Army of pigeons, 97 
Ashcroft, Mrs. B. G, 204, 206 
Ashtabula, 62 
Asia gale, 57 
Asia, 57, 190 
Atkey, J., 203-4 
Atlantic Monthly, 135, 155 
Au Sable Ft, 62 

BAILLIE, J,, Jr., vii 

Bala, 122 

Barbour, Dr. T., 125 

Barrow Bay, ii, 14, 175 

Battle, Dr. H., viii 

Bayfield, Capt, 108 

Beament I., 72 

Bear, 205 

Bear's Rump I., 20, 24 

Bedstead, trick, 140-1 

Bee, 36, 109, 164 

Beebe, W., 166 

Bellin, 33 

Bellmore Lake, 75, 117 

Belrose, 117 

Benson, Miss L., viii 

Bentley gale, 56-60 

Berford Lake, 16, 95-6, 158 

Bice, Clare, viii 

Big Bay, 52, 183, 185 

Big Pike Bay, 12, 16, 72 

Big Pine Harbour, 18, 176 

Big Tub, 19, 118 

Bighead R., 138 

Bird's Eye Primula, 21 

Bittersweet, 167 

Blue-eyed Grasses, 21 

Blue Mts., 4, 23, 167 

Boat Coves, 16, 64-5, 79, 127, 129, 

Boat Lake, 3, 8-10, 34, 96, 148 

Boisseau, 30 

Borron, E. B., 235 

Borrow, G., 160 

Boswell, J., 20 

Bowman, C., ix 

Bradley, Mag, 127 ff. 

Bradley, Steve, 65, 127 ff. 

Bradley's Harbour: see Boat Coves 

Britain Lake, 161-2, 168 

British-Canadian Timber and Lumber- 
ing Company, 236 f . 

British investors, 175, 236 

Brittany, 3, 27-8, 36 

Bruce (village), 42-3, 48 

Bruce Mines, 42-8 

Bruce and North Shore Ry., 195 

Bruce Peninsula Resort Assn., ix 

Bruin, F., ix 

Buffalo, N.Y., 85-6 

Bull, W,, 54-6 

Byrne, J., ii 

CABOT'S HEAD, 5, 26, 34-6, 58, 163, 

174-5, 183 
Cadillac, 9 
Calypso Orchid, 134, 137, 144, 146, 

Camboose, 170, 173-4, 232-3 



Cameron, R,, 52-3, 55 

Campbell, D. E., viii 

Camp No. 1, 170, 173-5, 231-2 

Canada Co,, 115, 164 

Canadian Lumberman, vii 

Can. National Ry., 7, 23 

Can. Pacific Ry., 23, 194 

Cape Chin, 15, 215 

Cape Croker, 13, 35, 96, 103, 115, 158, 

211 229 

Cape Hurd, 4, 30, 35, 42, 46, 109, 113 
Cape Rich, 211 
Cedar, 177, 185 
Centre Road, 16 
Champion, 94 
Champlain, 3, 27-8, 30 
Chatham, 179 
Chez Nous, 225 
Chiefs Ft., 72, 95, 103 
Chipmunk, 78, 125 
Christchurch, 207 
Christian I., 68, 203 
City of Cottingwood, 36 
City of Owen Sound, 53 
Clarksburg, viii, 211 
Clergue, F. EL, 194-5 
Cole, H., 71 
Coleridge, S. T., 184 
Colling, Rev., 205 
Collingwood, 36, 156-7, 167, 174 
CoUins Inlet, 19, 48, 173 
Colpo/s Bay, 9, 10, 26, 34, 55-6, 97, 

175-6, 203-4 

Colpo/s Bay (village), 13, 94-5, 226 
Columbia, 49 
Cook Brothers, 229-37 
Coral Root orchid, 125 
Cordingley, A. B., ix 
Cove L, 20, 24, 30, 48, 50-1, 62-3, 149 
Crane Lake, 161-2 
Crane R., 18, 175 
Crotalid, 122 

DAVIS, 117 
Davis, Capt, 67-8 
Deadman s I., 72 
Dedication, v 
Detroit, 110-12 
Detroit R,, 122, 179 
Devil's Pulpit, 18 
Diamond Back, 122 
Dingley Tariff, 179 
Dioscorides, 153 
Disciples Church, 139, 142 
Dispensatory, United States, 154 
Doctor I., 20 


Dollier de Casson: see Sulpicians 

Dorcas Bay, 149 

Driftwood Cove, 60 

Driftwood Crossing, 7 

Du Creux, 28, 31, 34, 168 

Dufferin Co., 156 

Dunlop, "Tiger," 114-15 

Dyer s Bay, 15, 18, 31, 174-5, 185 

EAGLE, 183 

Eames, E. A., 162 

Eastnor, 16, 229 

Echo I., 24 

Eden, 21, 121 

Elliott, V., viii 

Emerson, R. W., 137 

Emmett Lake, 161 

England, 155 

Epidemic, 211-14 

Erie, Lake, 31, 85, 122 

Escarpment: see Niagara Escarpment 

Etharita, 167-8 

Evans, Rev. J., 110 

FEE, N., vii 

Fernald, M. L., 149 

Ferndale, 16 

Fishing Islands, 11, 31, 70-5, 108-9, 

111, 114-17 
Fitzwilliam L, 24, 30 
Fleming, H., vii, ix 
Fleming, J. S., vii, ix 
Fleming, R. F., vii, ix, 74 
Flix, 153, 159 
Flowerpot L, 20, 24, 36, 109, 118, 149, 

163 ff. 

Flowerpots, 162-8 
"Flu," 212 

Ford, Model T, 216-17 
"Fort," 73, 113 
Fort Supose, 73 
Forty Hills, 15, 17, 213 
Foster, W., 49 
Fox, Rev. E. T., 94 ff., 144 
Fox, Miss K. S., viii 
Fraser, Capt. F. M., 43-8 
French Bay, 72 
French, R., 9, 29, 178 

GAHETO, 108, 113 

Galinee, 32, 123; see also Sulpicians 

Gait, John, 36, 109, 164 

Garden of Eden, 121 

Gamier, Fr. C., 28-9 

Gas-boat, 119 

Gauley's Bay, 148 



Geneva, 79, 82 

George Lake, 79, 82, 161-2 

Gerard, John, 152-3 

Gertie, 190 

Ghegheto, 108 

Ghost Lake, 175 

Gibbings, Robert, 154-5 

Gilchrist, W., vii, 172, 230 

Gillies Lake, 15, 18, 161, 174-5, 181 ff., 


Glacier, 25-6 
Globe, 45, 48 
Goderich, 43, 45, 50, 83, 85, 109, 111, 


Golden, 117 
Golden Ragwort, 21 
Goldsmith, Oliver, 28, 222 
Gooding, Trader, 114 
Gorgon, 130-2 
Grand Trunk Ry., 177, 194 
Grass Pink orchid, 144 
Gravel Harbour, 83 
Gravenhurst, 122 
Gray's Manual, 156 
Great Lakes Pilot, 64-5, 84 
Greenough Harbour, 148 
Greig, R., ix 

Grey Co., 138, 156, 167, 185 
Guatemala, 155 

HALF MOON I., 118 

Halfway Rock Pt., 60 

Hall, Capt. W. B., 58 

Halton Co., 167 

Hamilton, Dr., 114 

Hanover, 193, 195, 197 

Hardwoods, 176, 194, 196 

Hart, N. C., viii 

Hart's Tongue Fern, xv, 9, 13, 142, 


Hauch, Dr. C., ix 
Hawke, 117, 148 
Hayes, 216 
Health, Dept. of, 213 
Hemlock, 177-8 
Hennepin, Fr., 32-3 
Hepworth, ix, 78 
Herball, 152-3 
Heron, Great Blue, 89 
History of Bruce County ', The, viii 
Holly ferns, 159 
Hope Bay, 14, 157, 191, 207 
Hope I., 67 
Hopeness, 207 
Hopkins, 117 
Howdenvale, 12, 16 

Howe, Hon. Joseph, 232 

Hudson, W. H., 123-4 

Hurlburt, Rev. T., 203 

Huron, Diocese of, 219 

Huron Fishing Co., 114 

Huronia, Mission to, 29, 31, 167, 203 

Hurons, 3, 29 

Hydrographic Service of Canada, 84 

Hydrus, 72 

In the Days of the Canada Company, 

Indian Affairs, Dept. of, 173, 227, 

229 f ., 232 ff. 
Indians, xvii, 3-4, 6-7, 13, 27-31, 71, 

96, 108, 163, 167-8, 173, 181-2, 185, 

190, 203-4, 227 f., 235 
Inland Seas, vii 
Ira, Lake, 17-18 
Ireland, 150, 156 
Iris, Lake Huron Dwarf, 21, 146 
Iroquois, 29 

Isaac Lake, 10, 13, 16, 96 
Isaac May, 61 
Isaac M. Scott, 72 
Isthmus Bay, 14-15, 207 


James, Canon R. W., vii, 207 ff. 

Jane Miller, 52-6, 69, 118, 183, 185-6, 

Jogues, Fr. Isaac, 28 

Johnson, Samuel, 20 
ohnston's Harbour, 18, 117, 149 
Judge's Creek, 14, 209 

KANSAS, 122 
Kemble, 8-9 
Kennedy, D. E., viii 
Kennedy, W., 35, 115-16 
Keppel Twp., 173, 228, 230 f. 
Kidd, Bishop John, 87 
Kincardine, 117 

Knechtel Mfg. Co., 193-5, 197-8 
Kribbs, Rev. L., 204 
Krotkov, P. V., 160-1 


La Cloche, 149 

Lady Dufferin, 59-60 

Lady Slipper: Queen, 126; Ram's Head, 


Lagoon, 86, 88-91 

Lahontan, Baron de, 29, 30, 73, 80, 98 
Laird, Hon. David, 234 f. 
Lambert, D., 45-8 


Lamprey, 120 

Landon, Dr. F., viii 

Larsen, Capt., 63 

Laske, 153, 159 

Le Garon, Fr., 28 

Lery, de, 31 

Liard, 111 

Lilacs, 220 ff. 

Lindsay Twp., 192, 231 ff. 

Lions Head, 1^16, 186, 189, 207, 

211-13, 231 
Little Cabotia, 36 
Little Current, 52, 66, 195 
Little Pine Harbour, 18 
Little Tub, 19, 118 
Lizars, Misses, 115 
Long, O., 67 

Lumbering, 171-80, 222-3, 227-37 
Lumberman, 172-5, 222-3 
Lyal L, 64-5 

Lymburner, H., 175, 185 ff., 236 
Lymburner, M., ix 
Lymburner, R., vii, 172, 183 ff., 236 
Lyon, R, A., 235 

McARTHims, 216 

Macassa, 65-9 

McAuley, 117 

McCallum's schoolhouse, 207, 215 

McCarthy, Hon. Leighton, ix 

McConnell, J. E., ix 

McCutcheon, T., 67 

McDiarmid, C., ix 

Macdonald, Sir John A., 175, 230, 232, 


McDonalds, 216 
McGregor and son, 54-6 
McGregor, Alex, 70, 73, 109-16 
McGregor, Capt. Murray, 73, 111-12, 


McGregor Bay, 115 
McGregor Harbour, 115 
Mclntosh, G., 118-19 
Mclver, 13 

McKay, Capt J., 67-8 
MacKay, John, 65 
MacKay, Neil, 65 
McKenzie, 117 

Mackenzie, Hon. Alexander, 234 
Mackinac, 66, 80 
Mackinnon, Sen. J. A., ix 
McLay, Allan, ix 
McLays, 117, 216 
McLeod, 117 
Macpherson, Sir D. L., 237 


McVicar, 18 

Magnet, 61 

Main Station L, 70-3, 75, 112-13 

Maidand R., 43, 83, 109 

Manasoo, 65-9 

Manitoba, 36, 67-8 

Manitoulin, 65-6, 68-9 

Manitoulin L, 20, 23, 29-30, 41, 52, 

62-3, 66, 115, 122, 137-8, 149, 177, 

185, 195, 227, 234 
Mann, Gother, 33-4, 41, 70 
Maple, 171, 176, 179 
Marl, 182 
Marley Lake, 161 
Marsh, Miss E. L., viii 
Martin, Jack, 108 
Massacre, 71 

Massasauga, 78, 121-32, 194 
Maurepas, de, 32-3 
May, Capt L, 61 
Meaford, 52, 118-19, 138-9, 156 
Medusa, 130 
Menesetung R., 109 
Her Douce, 27 
Methodists, 203 
Mexico, 155 
Michael's Bay, 52 
Michigan, 23, 91, 104 
Middlebro, A., 67 
Miller, B. B., 237 
Miller Lake Ranch, 18 
Miller Lake Reserve, 198 
Mills, Hon. David, 235 
Miner, Jack, 100 
Minnecog L, 122 
Minto Twp., 122 
Mission of Apostles, 28 
Mississippi, 160 
Mitchell, 33 

Mitchell, Margaret H., 104, 106 
Moccasin Flower orchid, 144 
Modjeska, 66 
Moll, Hermann, 32-3 
Monument, 18, 162 ff. 
Moore Lake, 161 
Morris, F., 162 
Morris, Capt. T., 85 
Morrison, 117 
Morrows, 216 
Mortier, 32-4 
Mountain Lake, 8 
Muir, Dan, 136-42 
Muir, John, 135-43, 148 
Muir Glacier, 135 
Muskoka, 122 


Nellie Sherwood, 187, 190 

New Brunswick, 155 

New England, 160 

New York, 155, 160 

Newbury, 122 

Newman, Walter M., vii, 176-9 

Niagara Escarpment, 4, 14, 22-3, 25, 

56, 121, 155-6, 167 
Niagara Falls, 139 
Niagara Fishing Co., 114-15 
Niagara Glen, 122 
Niagara Gorge, 122 
Nightshade, 167 
North Channel, 42, 115, 195 
North Pt., 20 

North Shore, 41-3, 115, 149, 177, 195 
Northern Ry., 174 
Nova Scotia, 160 

OJIBWAYS, 71, 203, 227 

Oliphant, 9-11, 173, 230 

Oliphant, Laurence, 11 

Ontario, Lake, 31, 122 

On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, 

Orchids: Alaska, 142, 144r-51; Calypso, 
134, 137, 144, 148; Coral Root, 125; 
Grass Pink, 144; Queen Lady Slipper, 
126; Moccasin Flower, 144; Prairie 
White Fringed, 160-1; Ram's Head 
Lady Slipper, 146 

Ottawa, 173, 175, 229, 234 

Ottawa R., 173, 232 

Ouendiagui, 3 

Our Native Orchids, 162 

Our Rise from the Ashes, 193 

Owen, Capt. W. F., 35-6, 108 

Owen Sound, 4-8, 27-8, 35-7, 47-8, 
52, 61-2, 66, 68, 94, 102, 138, 142, 
172-4, 185, 189, 203, 214, 228, 230 

Oxenden, 203 


Paisley Advocate, 102 

Papinachois, 31 

Parkhead Junction, 7, 204 

Parry Sound, 50-1, 57-8, 62 

Passenger pigeon, 94-107 

Passenger Pigeon in Ontario, The, 104, 


Paterson, E. E., ix 
Pease, A. S., 22-3, 149 
Peattie, D. C, 155 
Peel Co., 156 

Penetanguishene, 106, 109, 122, 164 
Pequegnat, R., ix 


Petuns, 28, 31, 108, 167-8 

Phyllitis, 152 

Pigeon, wild, 94-107 

Pijart, Fr. P., 29 

Pleasant Harbour, 18, 79-81, 83, 86 

Point Edward, 84-5 

Point Pelee, 122 

Pokagon, Chief Simon, 96 

Port, Capt. A., 52-3, 56, 185 

Port Elgin, ix 

Port Lambton, 85 

Portage, 9-10, 34 

Portage, Wis., 136, 139 

Prairie White Fringed Orchid, 160-1 

Preacher's Pt., 72 

Primula, 21 

Prince Albert, 52 

Public Works, Dept. of, 178 

Purple Valley, 13, 157, 207 

QUEBEC, 173-4, 230 
Queen Lady Slipper, 126 
Queens Quarterly, vii 
Queen's Wharf, 174 

RADISSON, P. E., 29 

Ragwort, Golden, 21 

Railways: see Bruce and North Shore; 

Can. National; Can. Pacific; Grand 

Trunk; Northern 
Ram's Head Lady Slipper, 146 
Ranee, 132 
Rankin R., 9-11, 14 
Ransbury, J. W., ix 
Rattlesnake Creek: see Spring Creek 

(Lindsay Twp.) 
Rattlesnakes: see Massasauga; Timber 

Reavely, G. H., viii 
Red Bay, 12, 16, 72, 100, 106 
Rezina, 49-52 

Relations, of 1640 and 1642, 29 
"Rendezvous of plants," xvii 
Rivard, A., 224 
River of Hurons, 30 

Robertson, Norman, vii, 73, 102, 111-12 
Robinson, E. A., 225 
Robinson, Dr. P. J., viii 
Rocky Mts., 145, 148 
Rouses, 216 
Rowan, R. and J., 117 

Saginaw Bay, 62 
Sailboats, 119 
St. Andrew, 60 


St. Glair, Lake, 122 

St. Glair R., 84-5, 122 

St. Edmunds Twp., 229, 231 ff. 

St. Joseph's L, 137-8 

St. Louis, Lake, 31 

St. Margaret's Church, 15, 207, 218-19 

St. Mary's R., 88, 137 

St. MatMas, 167 

St. Simon and St. Jude, 28, 31, 168 

Samells, Mr. and Mrs. A. B., ix 

Sandusky R.85 

Sanson, 31, 34 

Sarnia, 110 

Saturday Night, vii 

Sauble Beach, 6, 8, 10-12, 145, 149 

Sauble Falls, 11 

Sauble Forest, ix 

Sauble R., 6, 9-10, 14, 95, 175, 230 

Saugeen, 4, 6, 30, 35, 108, 110, 113, 


Saugink, Sauking: see Saugeen 
Saul Ste Marie, 29, 42, 66, 177 
Saunders, W. E., 148, 156 
Schoolhouse, 207, 215 
Schweitzer, Dr. A., 219 
Scotland, 149 
Scots, 117 
Scott, D. C., 69 
Seaman and Newman, 177-8 
Seiche, chap, vm 
Seven Sisters, hills, 17 
Settler, 172-5, 220-6, 233 
Severn, 40, 61-5, 131 
Shallow Lake, ix 
Shouldice Lake, 161-2, 170, 173, 175, 


Silversides, Capt. J., 63-5, 131 
Simcoe Co., 156, 167 
Simpson, W. (Amabel Twp.), 7, 204-6 
Simpson, W. (Tobermory), 117-18 
Sine, Mr. and Mrs. T. A., ix 
Sky Pilots, 203-19 
Smelt, 120 
Smith, 117 
Soo, 137, 177 
Soper, J. H., 156 
South Baymouth, 52 
Southampton, ix, 4, 6, 102, 115, 117, 

119, 196-7, 203 
Spanish R., 178 
Spartan, 61 

Spence, John, 35, 115-16 
Spencer's Landing, 52-5 
Sponsors, ix 

Spotton, H. B., 144, 152, 155 
Spring Creek (Amabel Twp.), 8 


Spring Creek (Lindsay Twp.), 18, 65, 

127 ff. 

Sproat, Alex., 234 
Spry Lake, 9 
Square timber, 173-4 
Standing Rock, 167-8 
Stevens, A., viii 
Stokes Bay, 16-17, 25-6, 64r-5, 86, 88, 

92, 117, 124, 127, 129, 146, 148, 

176, 192 ff., 207 
Street, W., 175 
Stringer, A., viii, 220 
Sulpicians, 32 
Sun-Times, vii 
Sydenham R., 4, 203 
Sydney Bay, 158 
Syracuse, 23, 155 

TALMAN, Dr. J. J., viii 

Tamarac Club, 86, 126, 146, 149, 150, 


Tamarac L, 86-8, 90-2, 151, 192 ff. 
Tamblyn, Dr. W. F., viii 
Tara, ix 
Tariffs, 178-9 
Tawas, 178 
Telephone, rural, 214 
Tennessee, 155, 157 
Thompson, D., 34, 41 
Tides, 79-93 
Timber rattlesnake, 122 
Tobacco Nation, 27-8, 31, 167 
Tobermory, 1, 3-4, 10, 16-20, 25, 52-3, 

73, 95, 117-19, 149, 163, 173, 175, 

178-9, 191, 195, 230 
Tommy Wright, 54 
Toronto, 174, 229 f . 
Toronto, Bay of, 73 
Townsend, R., 183 
Trip, Capt. A., 50 ff. 
Trout, P., viii, 138 ff. 
Trout, W,, 138 ff. 
Trout, 182-4 
Trout Hollow, 139 
"Tubbermurry," 19 
Tucker, E., 40 
Tug, steam, 119 
Turtle doves, 98-9 

United Church, 203 
Upper Canada, 42, 172, 226 

VAIL'S Px., 67 
Vankoughnet, A., 232, 237 
Victor, 63 

Index 245 

WAHNAPITAE R., 178 White Cloud L, 54-5 

Wales, 155 Whitefish R., 115 

Walkerton, ix, 197 Wiarton, 3, 7-10, 12-13, 16, 26, 52-5, 

Walking Fern, 14 68, 90, 94-5, 104, 142, 172-3, 176 ff., 

Waterdown, 121 194, 229 f., 234, 237 

Watershed, 11 Wiarton Belle, 52 

Waubimo gale, 57 Wildman, 75 

Waubuno, 56, 69 Wildman s I, 74, 117 

W. B. Hall 59-60 WilHams, C., vii, 172, 231 f. 

Welsh, Lake, 154 Williams, Rev. D., 205-6 

Welsh Manuscript Soc., 154 Windsor, 179 

Wendiaghy: see Ouengiagui Wingfield Basin, 59, 174 

West Bay, 66 Wisconsin ice-sheet, 25-6 

Wests, 216 Wood, W. H., ix 

Whicher, Mr. and Mrs. C., ix 

Whicher, H., 226 YOSEMITE VALLEY, 135 


d 5